Fear of the spread of Islamic values resonates in many parts of Europe. In Switzerland a referendum was held yesterday on 29 November 2009 against the construction of minarets. The amendment was approved by the majority of the population. Even though most Muslims in Switzerland do not adhere to the codes of dress and radical beliefs and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries, Swiss people feel their core values are endangered by Islam.
The ban on minarets, however, is more a threat in itself as it contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution and infringes guaranteed international human rights. It rather endanger peace between religions and does not help to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs at all as it defames Muslims.
Therefore the question to be asked is how can a referendum pass in a grassroots democracy that is incompatible with articles of international law to which Switzerland is a signatory?
Certainly the initiators are affected by particular emotions. The outcome of the initiative is an expression of the concern and widespread fear of Islam and speaks of the population’s want to counter extremist tendencies. A ban on the construction of new minarets, though, definitely is a wrong approach to overcome fear of fundamentalism. It does not help and is not a feasible means. Quite the contrary. It can lead to a complete breakdown of non-violent communication.
Rather than provoke or react to provocation and think in terms of win and lose- can we not better create peace?