Thursday, 8 April 2010


Battle of the castles: more unhappy times for Europe's Muslims

  • Thursday, 8 April 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • Three weeks ago, ISN Security Watch forwarded a piece by Simon Bradley for Swissinfo in which he reported from Geneva on an increasing Muslim demand for cemetery and the debate it sparked. "The call for Islamic cemeteries in every canton by a Swiss Muslim umbrella group has provoked a wave of reactions" he wrote.

    The problem was triggered when Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, announced he was preparing a federal legal case concerning freedom of religion and demanding a separate cemetery for Muslims in each of Switzerland's cantons. According to many however, Afshar is taking the wrong legal route and stirring Islamophobia by taking the case to the federal level and transforming it into an issue of negotiation between the authorities and representatives of the Muslim community in Switzerland.

    For Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, from the Religion Research Centre at Lucerne University, “Swiss regulations and Muslim requirements can normally be reconciled, but this has much to do with the needs at the local level and these are defined by the authorities and Muslim representatives.”

    On the other hand, Switzerland's ban on minarets has crossed the border and triggered similar right-wing demand in neighbouring Germany. Following Swtizerland's footsteps, international right-wingers gathered in Germany on the last weekend of March demanding an EU-wide ban on minarets.

    Charles Hawley wrote for Speigel Online International on March 26, 2010 that "delegates from right-wing populist parties from across Europe are descending on Germany this weekend for a conference looking into the possibility of an EU-wide minaret ban. The hosts, an anti-Muslim German group, hope to use the gathering as a springboard to success in local elections."

    For many protesters, Europe's Mosques are little more than castles for a foreign, invading cultural tradition. But for Hawley, they are little more than the castles that dot the entire continent representing bastions necessary for the defence of what developed into Europe's long and rich cultural tradition.

    In the same edition, Speigel Online International also featured a photo gallery of seven images depicting the right-wing move to ban minarets on an EU-wide scale.

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