Thursday, December 3, 2009

Swiss Minaret Ban: A Wrong Step in the Right Direction

Swiss Minaret Ban: A Wrong Step in the Right Direction

The L.A. Times reported (12/1/09) that by a “national referendum, [the Swiss voted] …with 57.5% of the vote, to ban the construction of new minarets across Switzerland. The ban is wrong and mean-spirited. However, in that it could lead to increased interfaith dialogue, the ban could be a step in the right direction – and can be reversed.

The Swiss can look at other western countries, such as the U.S., to see that despite religious tensions, minarets are legal and beautiful. Their ban speaks volumes about the status of religious expression and understanding in Switzerland.

At this difficult time, it will be important that Swiss Muslims practice tolerance, and intensify efforts to communicate with, and thus educate, their detractors. Humans are threatened by what they don’t know. The Swiss are threatened by the increasing presence of Islam in their country. It seems that Muslims have kept a low profile there. Now is the time for Muslims to speak out in communities – especially in the workplace, where Muslim individuals are known and respected for the work they do. That respect can be transferred to their religion if Muslims would speak appropriately of their faith such as at lunch or on work breaks.

Christian religious leaders in Geneva and elsewhere in Switzerland must lead efforts to increase communication with their Muslim sisters and brothers. Muslim leaders must be sure not to proselytize as they reach into Swiss communities to forge bonds of unity. The vote was taken but the ban is not the end of the story. Hopefully the Christian and Muslin communities in Switzerland can work together for better future relations, as well as an increased presence of beautiful Islamic architecture.

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