What the Shed Looks At

Friday, December 4, 2009

Minarets and such

So the Swiss people chose by popular referendum to amend their constitution the other day. It now includes a ban on the construction of minarets (Islamic prayer towers) in the country. Doesn't this sound like the sort of issue which should be handled by a law, rather than a constitutional amendment? I think the amendment's backers know full well that any such law would be struck down as unconstitutional, whereas the constitution itself cannot be unconstitutional. It can only be inconsistent. So, in fact, the Swiss constitution is currently inconsistent.

Some have claimed that Islam oppresses women. That has nothing to do with minarets. While traditional Islamic culture does proscribe certain roles to women and others to men, this is true of every traditional culture in the world. I, as a proponent of general human equality, oppose these traditions, but do not single Islam out as a special transgressor. This has nothing to do with minarets.

Some have claimed that minarets represent a threat to Swiss culture. As of their 2000 census, Switzerland had 310,800 citizens who claimed membership in a Muslim congregation. This represented 4.3% of their population at the time. All reports seem to indicate that Islam's market share of Swiss population has increased since then, with some reports going as high as 6%. Islam is therefore a (minority) part of Swiss culture. It cannot be a threat to Swiss culture. If Swiss hicks wanted to practice xenophobia, they should have done so when the Muslims were still foreigners. It is too late for these yokels to be yelling "Return from whence ye came." Switzerland is now a partially Muslim nation.

Some have claimed that predominantly Muslim nations practice more severe forms of religious persecution. Some of these nations do. This is reprehensible. In no sense does this justify the Swiss amendment. If you cite this argument, I hope you realize that you are supporting my view: religious intolerance is unacceptable.

I would like to digress for one paragraph to mention my support for the process by which this amendment was made to the Swiss constitution. I stand unequivocally for popular sovereignty. Suppression of this fundamental human right is worse than religious persecution by some margin. If the government does not serve the will of the people, then it is both the right and the responsibility of the people to remove that government and all of its officers from power. That being said, 57.5% of the Swiss people who turned out to vote on this referendum are slack-jawed buffoons. Don't take it personally, Switzerland. I think 57.5% is a low-ball for the world average of buffoonery.

Finally, I would like to ask what this amendment's backers will achieve by their success. Will they block the construction of minarets in Switzerland? Yes, at least for a time. There are, of course, hives of lawyers buzzing already to challenge this harebrained scheme. Will they open up a polite discourse throughout all of Europe on the roll of Islam? No, the discourse will be far from polite throughout most of Europe, and the rest of the world. Will they widen the rift between Islam and the rest of Western culture and further inflame hatreds from numerous sources (which were doing quite well on their own, thank you very much), all directed at their fellow man? Yep.


  1. 57.5% is a lowball!?!

    Lol, you actually contradict yourself Andy. You stand in support for a pluralist system, and then say that same pluralism is buffoonery.

  2. I don't see a contradiction there. I really do feel that the will of the people is the only justifiable mandate for state action. I also feel that humanity is, by and large, incapable of caring for itself or governing itself adequately. In short, we're fucked for now.

    I probably am one of those people you'd call a hopeless idealist. I believe that the only direction for true human advancement is to educate everyone and to instill in all a common sense of human camaraderie. I believe that we can get everyone on board to improve the human condition, and I believe we all can reach a point where we are capable of contribution. Whether or not we ever reach this ideal, I will not stand for disenfranchisement.