07 June 2010

The Ban of Minarets in Switzerland

Apparently, I remember the influence of Christopher Hitchens’s controversial yet cynical book famously named “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”, published at 2007.

Hitchens stating some disapproval quotes regarding to the choice of beliefs in general way and also questioning the power of God itself, like pictured in this statement: Why if God was the creator of all things, were we supposed to “praise” him for what came naturally? By delivering this book to the world, Hitchens tried to influence mass society and invite them all to criticize the compatibility of modern beliefs with scientific knowledges and technology’s improvement nowadays. Figuratively this author have been generally spread out a shambles of religion or in the other word what we also known as religion haters.

We can call Hitchens as a nuisance, but on the other hand I personally grant him an award for his effort to nudging the world’s debate on how the religions possibly containing people’s mind with fundamentalism and fanaticism, not to forget to mention the 9/11 tragedy which we all informed that it was Al Qaeda’s responsibility (Islamic Fundamentalist Organization based on Afghanistan). Now, the debate’s still going strong or even much stronger in Switzerland, but in other form.

This time, the subject is not the religion as a whole, but the construction of Minarets (generally tall spires with onion-shaped usually either free standing or taller than any associated support structure), which in this Schengen state got turbulenced by some political wings of the country. Seems like there will be only 4 minarets inside Switzerland’s territory (Geneva, Zurich, Winthertur, and Wangen bei Olten) until the end of the world, since the voting agreed to the ban of minarets controversial construction after this issue got raised by the right wings politicians mainly from the Swiss’s People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, the Egerkingen Committee (Egerkinger Kommittee). Officially, only 4 of 26 Swiss Cantoons (Swiss Cantons are the member states of the federal states of Switzerland) which mostly in the French-speaking part of the country disagree or opposed the initiatives.

It was all started at 1997, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan who later become Turkish Prime Minister, giving his speech by saying "Mosques are our barracks, domes our helmets, minarets our bayonets, believers our soldiers. This holy army guards my religion."

This statement gloriously debatable in many ways, including for the Egerkinger Commmittee’s exponent, Ulrich Schluer, who later defends on his own arguments that “A Minaret has nothing to do with religion, it just symbolises a place where Islamic law is established.” The Egerkingen Committee which also include Swiss People’s Party and Federal Democratic Union subsequently initiate the idea of banning the contruction of minarets in Switzerland, after there’s conflicts between local residents in Wangen bei Olten with Turkish Cultural Association regarding to the application for a construction permit to erect a 6-metre-high minaret on the roof of its Islamic Community Centre, in 2005.

The Committee strongly exude that the Minaret should not have nothing to do with disturbing local communities lives, so from 2006 until 2008, they launch several cantonal initiatives against the erection of minarets. In a referendum on 29 November 2009, the amendment was approved by 57.5% of participating voters.

In writer’s personal argumentation, the minaret has nothing to do with the prayer activity itself, because the function so far is only about to calling for prayer time (adhan), which in Islam it has 5 times a day (at sunrise, noon, sundown, and evening). Later on, Adhan is called not from the minaret but from Musallah (small size of mosque, oftenly built on small areas) or prayer hall by using microphone. But still, traditionally the minarets is a part of Islamic long-remarkable struggled-history for many times. It first establishment was 80 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, and in Arabic language Minaret means “Gate from Heaven and Earth”, that’s why the ban of the construction of Minarets (which is constructedly built on the top of the mosque or independently on two sides of the mosque itself) felt extranous for many Moslems.

On their official website, The Swiss government represented by the Federal Council (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and a clear majority of Parliament came out against the initiative, like we can see from the statement of The Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, “"These concerns have to be taken seriously. The Federal Council has always done so and will continue to do so in future. However, the Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies."

At this time, I believe that what this country needs is the dialogue between religious and social groups and also the representatives of the ban initiator as a pre-emptive action that could be taken soon, since this religion issue is a very essential yet sensitive ones in every country, especially in Europe where many immigrants from Middle East and also other Moslems live. If it’s not seeking the possible solution, it’s not impposible there will be another kind of cold war, where this world divided into many groups basically formed by their beliefs, and aggresively discriminate other religion who lives in their territory.

Religion is not something that we can use to opposing the others in a terms of self security and also state security. The terrorist is the exclusion of the religion beliefs, because there’s no religion who teach their believer to attack among them.

So the discrimination to some religion is something that needs to be solved immediately, before it raise into what Hitchens said in his book reveal: Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.

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