Posted by: becketfund | December 9, 2009

Further Reading: Asma T. Uddin of Becket Fund on Swiss Referendum

In a Washington Post article Asma Uddin of the Becket Fund discusses the November 29 referendum in Switzerland, in which the electorate approved a prohibition on the construction of minarets. Uddin comments on how the vote, which generated worldwide comment and controversy, marks another setback for religious liberty in Europe.



  1. The Swiss referendum was provocative and unnecessary because it achieved nothing positive. The Swiss now find themselves condemned as racist and the Islamic extremists can shout “discrimination” from the rooftops. But two important points have been missed amid the tsunami of condemnation. The ban on minarets was certainly a symbolic rebuff to the Muslims in Switzerland but it does nothing to prevent them worshiping freely. Nor does it prevent them building more mosques. It is therfore questionable whether the ban on minarets (which are not central to the Islamic faith) infringes the right to freedom of religion or belief of Muslims. Had the referendum called for a ban on mosques, however, this would not only have been illegal under international law (the ICCPR) but the Swiss would almost certainly have rejected it.
    Secondly, the vote must be seen in context. The Swiss have been involved in a bitter dispute with Libya over the conduct of one of Ghaddafi’s sons on a visit to Geneva. Ghaddafi escalated the dispute out of all proportion, calling for Szitzerland to be broken up. The Swiss were also reacting to the virtual silence of most mainstream political parties in the face of increasingly shrill behaviour by Islamic fundamentalists throughout Europe. Here was an opportunity to protest but without harming anyone’s real freedom.

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