Was Switzerland right to ban the building of minarets?Swiss Muslims. Arguments on either side of the referendum debate, as well as scholarlycommentary following the outcome will be analyzed for strength and substance. Theessay concludes with a weighted and rationalized judgment of the decision and situatesthe ban in a broader context relating it to aforementioned questions.
Setting the scene
Consideration must be given to context for a discerning and informed understanding of the varying stances and the referendum outcome. Switzerland is a predominantlyChristian nation (Langer 2010). Despite Islam being the nation’s second largest religion,Switzerland’s four hundred thousand Muslims are a distinct minority at only five per centof the population (BBC news online 2009a; Ronis 2010). Switzerland has four minarets(Cumming-Bruce and Erlanger 2009) and two hundred mosques (BBC news online2009b). The growth of Islam and the integration of Muslims is a contentious issue, manySwiss feel Muslim’s have failed to integrate (Dolezal, Helbling and Hutter 2008). The popular far right political party Switzerland's People’s Party,
instigated thecampaign against minarets
(Cumming-Bruce and Erlanger 2009). The SVP is the largest party is Switzerland, popular on account of their hard-line stance towards immigration(Paterson 2009; Waterfield 2009). It is not extraordinary that this came to public vote,many referendum take place each year in Switzerland (Langer 2010). As an illustration, areferendum to relax naturalization laws was rejected in Switzerland in 2004 (Ettinger 2008). This demonstrates both the mood of the nation on issues of immigration andintegration and the commonality of referendums on such issues. A more significantindicator of the Swiss disposition towards Muslims is the ease with which the SVPcollected the required hundred thousand signatures required to call a referendum,reaching and exceeding it far ahead of the eighteen month deadline (Langer 2010).
A referendum on minarets or Muslims?