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October 17, 2009

Why the Swiss Are Afraid of Minarets

Spiegel Online reports:

Wangen bei Olten has already been lost. The small Swiss municipality at the foot of the Jura Mountains has become home to a minaret.

The Christians in the village fought hard to prevent it -- they collected signatures, lodged official complaints, spoke publicly against it and even the local Catholic and evangelical communities registered their opposition.

But nothing worked. Switzerland's highest court approved the building plans of the local Turkish cultural association and now a six meter (20 foot) tall minaret provides graphic proof of the victory won by the Olten Türk Kültür Ocagi.

"The minaret is only the first step," Daniel Zingg warns in appearances across the country. The former television repairman is a member of the Federal Democratic Union (EDU), a Christian party on the far right of Switzerland's political spectrum. Zingg, 53, sees minarets as symbols of Muslim victories over newly conquered lands -- as precursors to the introduction of Islamic Shariah law.

How times have changed in Switzerland. In the 1960s and 70s, politicians in Zürich and Geneva welcomed the construction of two mosques as symbols of the country's sophistication and open-mindedness. Nowadays, Switzerland's anti-minaret activists like to quote Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Minarets are our bayonets," he said. "The domes are our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the believers our army."

Daniel Zingg, on the other hand, has been referred to by the Swiss dailyTagesanzeiger as "God's soldier against Islamization." So far, his biggest success has been in Langenthal, not far from Wangen bei Olten. There, he was able to prevent a minaret from being built, arguing that it would be a source of "ideological emissions."

But he soon may win a much larger victory. On November 29, Swiss citizens will vote on a referendum as to whether the construction of minarets in the country should be forbidden. Such a ban would not be a global premiere; similar laws exist in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan -- against the building of church towers. . . . (continue reading)