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PRESS RELEASE MINARET ISSUES IN SWITZERLAND (cojep) December 2, 2009

Posted by cristobalgomez in Uncategorized.
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29/11/2009- Anti-Mosque and Anti-minaret campaigns have been documented by various human rights organizations throughout OSCE States. In January 2009, Institute of Race Relations, based in London, reported at least 50 racist and xenophobic campaigns against minorities, including initiatives to ban minarets. This included an anti-minaret initiative in the Carinthia Province of Austria, which resulted in adoption of a law in February 2008 prohibiting “unusual buildings that don’t fit in with traditional architecture.” The initiators of the campaign claimed that minarets are symbol of power of Islam and alien to Austrian culture. On 29 November 2009, Switzerland held a referendum to decide on a change to the constitution which had the same affect at the national level as in Austria. The instigators of this referendum affirmed put an end to a greater Islamization of Switzerland and to the development of political Islam. They indicate prevent further developments with the acceptance of the minarets to the call to prayer. COJEP International which is one of the largest Youth NGO Network in Europe is very worried about this escalating situation. We believe that “such initiatives are counter productive and these hinder dialogue rather than promoting mutual respect and understanding. Xenophobic and anti-immigrants discourse reaching its peak during these campaigns portrays Muslims as a monolithic alien block seeking to take over Europe. It is astonishing to see how this rhetoric is similar to anti-Semitic images used during 1930’s and 1940’s.” said vice-chair of Cojep International.

One example of such discriminatory anti-Muslim rhetoric is anti-minaret campaign posters depicting a woman in a traditional Afghan burka against a background of a Swiss flag upon which several minarets resembling missiles are erected. The Federal Commission against Racism in Switzerland announced on 7 October 2009 that these posters incite hatred. The authorities in Yverdon-les-Bains, in Canton Vaud, also stated that such images present an “unacceptable co-relation between people of Muslim faith and potential terrorists.” In its statement, the Swiss government made it clear that the anti-minaret initiative may endanger peace between various religions and impede the integration of the Muslim population. Countering the arguments that minarets are symbol of Islamic power, Switzerland’s Catholic Bishops Conference underlined that like church towers, minarets mark only the presence of a religion in public domain. COJEP International welcomes such clear statements and declarations made by high-ranking government officials, specialized human rights bodies, and faith leaders as well as numerous civil society organizations promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity. Our organization underlines and is very pleased that such political leadership and inter-faith co-operation can have a significant positive impact in reducing tensions and prejudices. Unfortunately it was not enough for promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity and to avoid the formalization of a posture of hate in this dismal evening in 22 of 26 Swiss cantons.

As bell towers are part of churches, minarets are part of mosques. All of these are humanity’s common heritage. No single culture, country or religion can claim that universal values such as respect for human rights, democracy and tolerance are their alone. Instead, we should facilitate understanding, mutual respect and dialogue through emphasizing common values of different cultures. Muslim communities have been an integral part of European history for ages and are an important part of modern European societies, contributing to its cultural, social, economic and political well-being. This society is now riddled by hate speech and the open rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam hatred (Islamophobia) and its political affirmation which challenge all the achievements of the Second World War disaster. We regret that the Swiss have largely disowned their constitution to switch on the side of xenophobia and established this Sunday, the 29th November, as “Black Sunday” for the Swiss Confederation. They also disowned their country which chairs the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe since the last November 18 and which carry among other things, the flag of our universal values at the highest. Which strange dilemma!

© Cojep http://www.cojep.com/

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