The Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets has caused a load of hand-wringing. Why?
Of course it’s absolutely wrong to deny freedom of religious expression, and the outcome of the vote is wrong. I’m no fan of any religion but here the Voltaire quote seems apt: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
But to be remotely surprised or aghast or shocked that Switzerland would pass such a vote strikes me as utterly ludicrous. After all the SVP/UDC is the largest party and Switzerland, it’s been fiendishly hard to get Swiss citizenship for decades, and it even took the country until 2002 to join the UN. The country’s direct democracy is seldom a force for anything progressive, and indeed seems to be quite the opposite.
And while everyone is having a good old rant at the offense caused to muslims by this vote, equally have a look at the difficulties atheists have had in Switzerland to run an advertising campaign – see the report below from Swiss TV from 9 months ago, and look at the way atheist posters have been defaced. Basically if you’re not christian then you don’t count (which is what the bus slogan above alludes to).