Forgive me for going Godwin-esque from the get-go, but in reading this article, I couldn't help but think of Europe in the 1920's, with the word "Muslim" replacing "Juden":
Switzerland approved Sunday a ban on new minarets from being built, with the referendum initiated by far-right politicians picking up strong support.
To the dismay of the Muslim minority here, some 57.5 percent of voters who cast ballots and 22 out of 26 cantons voted to ban the towers or turrets attached on mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer.
Far-right politicians across Europe celebrated the results, while the Swiss government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."[..]
They said that the minarets -- of which Switzerland has just four -- were not architectural features with religious characteristics, but symbolised a "political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights."
Having won a double majority on turnout of 53 percent, the initiative will now be inscribed in the country's constitution.
"The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted," said the government, which had firmly opposed the ban, in a statement.[..]
Switzerland has had an uneasy relationship with its Muslim population, which makes up some five percent of its population of 7.5 million people. Islam is the second largest religion here after Christianity.[..]
"The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community," said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.
The Conference of Swiss Bishops also criticised the result, saying that it "heightens the problems of cohabitation between religions and cultures."
It's a little disconcerting to me that memories in Europe could be so short as to forget another generation--not that long ago--when this kind of of fear-based bigotry became institutionalized. And sadly, with the success of this Swiss ban, conservatives in the Netherlands are considering a similar ban.
David Neiwert has written about this institutionalized fear of the other, and if I may be so lazy as to co-opt his (and Orcinus blogging partner Sara Robinson's) breakdown of the construct to make some group the feared "Other". Read and see how familiar this sounds:
1. Untrustworthy, unethical with money, prone to cheat in business dealings;
2. Clannish and unwilling to assimilate into the larger culture;
3. No respect at all for the rule of law. The only way to control them
is through brute force;
4. Dim-witted, lazy, fit only for physical labor -- but you have to
threaten them to get off their butts, because they won't work otherwise;
5. Constitutionally weaker than members of the dominant culture;
6. Complete lack of moral self-control;
7. Bent on world domination. These plans always involve secret conspiracies and special skills known only to the clan;
8. Despite their minority status, they are thought to have far more
power than their numbers, and an inordinate influence over the running
of the country;
9. Heirs to an inhumanly bloody history that cannot be forgiven, and
which they have never moved past (they're "bloodthirsty savages" with
no redeeming qualities); and which never created anything meaningful
in the way of art, music, science, or architecture (writing them out
10. Congenitally to understand the subtleties of the "superior" race
they live among, and thus forever brutish and inferior;
11. Inadequate personal and domestic hygiene (they smell, and their
houses and businesses aren't clean). Carriers of strange diseases that
threaten the dominant culture;
12. "Breeding like flies" and attendant fears that they're going to
out-breed the dominant culture (this one will be tossed around
regardless of actual comparative birth rates);
13. The men are out-of-control sex fiends who will sexually terrorize
the dominant culture's women if not firmly restrained;
14. The women are appropriate targets for sexual abuse by men of the
dominant culture. They probably even enjoy the chance to finally
experience a "real man;"
Take a look at any one of the right wing sites and you'll see variations on these themes over and over. I'm happy that Charles Johnson has started to speak out over the blind hatred and eliminationist rhetoric, although he too is not above wading in those waters when it comes to Muslims.
I think I've said that I come from one big "United Colors of Benetton" family; between adoptions and marriages, we pretty much have members from five continents, six faiths (and lack of faith) and too many cultures to count. And we celebrate them all. I just don't understand this fear of the Other. And I really don't understand it from countries who were smack dab in the middle of Hitler's inhumanity.
UPDATE: I was following this story on a few foreign policy sites and a comment at one struck me and I thought I'd share it:
The sad irony here is that if any mosques should actually cause any concern, it is the ones that don’t have minarets!
I’ve visited the mosque by the train station in Hamburg where the Sept. 11 attacks were planned, the ones in Dewsbury where the July 7 attacks were planned, and the ones in south London frequented by the Operation Crevice plotters. None of them have minarets! The ultra-wahabi-ists don’t go for that sort of frippery.
If they’re actually concerned with anyone’s “dream to conquer the world,” they should be banning bland cinder-block structures with cement floors. (Or Tora Bora caves).