The Swiss Ban Minarets
By R. Albert Mohler, Jr. | The Christian Post
The banning of minarets appears to be a cowardly move that contradicts Swiss commitments to religious freedom and tolerance. Singling out minarets in this ban is tantamount to isolating Islam and relegating it to second-class status – all protests to the contrary notwithstanding. The Muslim minaret is the central architectural symbol of Islam, as recognizably Muslim as steeples with crosses are recognizably Christian. Any nation that is truly committed to religious liberty cannot sustain a ban on one religiously significant architectural symbol or structure in this manner.
The receding influence of Christianity in Switzerland can be traced directly to theological liberalism in its churches and the increasing secularity of Swiss culture. Islam now enters the void created by the decline of Christianity and Christian culture in Switzerland, and throughout much of the continent as well.
Banning the minaret may serve to hide Muslim influence from view, but it does not address the underlying issues at stake. Surely the Swiss can do better than this. With this measure they have managed to violate religious liberty, anger Muslims, and avoid dealing with reality – all in one simultaneous act. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not a respectable or sustainable policy.
Vote to Ban Minarets is Fueled by Fear
The Swiss have voted not against towers, but Muslims. Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists.
By Tariq Ramadan | The Guardian
Voters were drawn to the cause by a manipulative appeal to popular fears and emotions. Posters featured a woman wearing a burka with the minarets drawn as weapons on a colonised Swiss flag. The claim was made that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Swiss values. (The UDC has in the past demanded my citizenship be revoked because I was defending Islamic values too openly.) Its media strategy was simple but effective. Provoke controversy wherever it can be inflamed. Spread a sense of victimhood among the Swiss people: we are under siege, the Muslims are silently colonising us and we are losing our very roots and culture. This strategy worked. The Swiss majority are sending a clear message to their Muslim fellow citizens: we do not trust you and the best Muslim for us is the Muslim we cannot see.
I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organisations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies towards religious and cultural pluralism. It is as if the populists set the tone and the rest follow. They fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely “integrated” ..
That we face common challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and violence – challenges we must face together. We cannot blame the populists alone – it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens.
American Muslims Fear for European Counterparts
By Karin Kamp | The Turkish Weekly
Switzerland’s decision to ban minarets has sparked outrage by Muslim-Americans who have called the vote “xenophobic and bigoted.”
The Swiss minaret ban, agreed by voters on Sunday, heightens a general concern by Muslims in the United States about the challenges faced by Muslims living in Europe. “Our fear is that the ban is going to further alienate a growing population of Muslims in Europe,” said Faiza Ali of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim-American group..
Ali cited other examples of challenges faced by European Muslims, including French resistance to burkas worn by some Muslim women, and opposition in parts of Europe to Turkish membership in the European Union.
Besides national papers, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, a number of local newspapers have also denounced the decision. The New York Daily News, called the Swiss vote “utterly idiotic” adding that “passing laws that target Muslims for being Muslims is not part of any clash of civilizations, it is a failure of one”.
The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy said in a statement that the decision is of “great concern”, calling it part of a “disturbing trend in significant parts of Europe to restrict the religious freedom and self-expression of religious and ethnic minorities, notably of Muslims”.
At the same time, CSID credited the Swiss government for its stance against the proposal.
Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN | The New York Times
Ayatollah Montazeri has emerged as the spiritual leader of the opposition, an adversary the state has been unable to silence or jail because of his religious credentials and seminal role in the founding of the republic. He is widely regarded as the most knowledgeable religious scholar in Iran and once expected to become the country’s supreme leader until a falling-out with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution and Iran’s supreme leader until his death in 1989.
Now, as the Iranian government has cracked down to suppress the protests that erupted after the presidential election in June and devastated the reform movement, Ayatollah Montazeri uses religion to attack the government’s legitimacy.
“A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate,” he said in one of a flurry of written comments posted on Web sites since the election.
Ayatollah Montazeri’s disillusionment, and his alienation from the state, came within a decade of the revolution. He mocked Ayatollah Khomeini’s decision to issue a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” saying, “People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.”
In recent times, Ayatollah Montazeri has kept up the pressure, taking the unprecedented step of apologizing for his support for the 1979 takeover of the United States Embassy. He also has said that the Islamic Republic is neither Islamic, nor a republic, and that the supreme leader has lost his legitimacy.
“Independence, ” he said in a recent speech on ethics, “is being free of foreign intervention, and freedom is giving people the freedom to express their opinions. Not being put in prison for every protest one utters.”
Ibrahim Kalin, new chief foreign affairs adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan
By Nicholas Birch | Al-Majalla
The Majalla: Would you agree that Turkish foreign policy has radically changed in the past five years or so?
I believe there is as much continuity as there is change. Take Israel for example. People think Turkey has turned its back on Israel because AK Party is an “Islamist party” with a hidden agenda. That is not true. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel in 1948, but it was also among the first to pull out its ambassador when Jewish extremists set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque in 1968. When the Jenin incident happened in 2002, it was the late Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, a secular politician, who called it a genocide, not the AK Party. Until 2008, this government was facilitating Israeli-Syrian negotiations. The Israelis trusted us. The Syrians trusted us. And we trusted them. The Gaza campaign broke that trust. Relations go up and down.
The nature of debates in Turkey, the West and the world are changing. Turkey is no longer a stagnant country living in the shadow of super powers in a Cold War world. History no longer flows from west to east. There is no longer a convincing western axis. The question is whether Europe has the strategic vision to project itself into the new world. Will it transform itself from a continental power to a soft power effective over a wider region? Or will it remain imprisoned in technical debates about EU legislation, its geopolitical vision extending no further than the Bulgarian-Turkish border? Those who interpret change as a threat will be discarded by history. That is why Turkey, independent of the Europeans’ state of mind, must follow through its own reforms with determination. If we know what we are doing at a time when Europe and America are feeling muddled, whose fault is that?
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The Muslim Brotherhood
Struggling to Steer a Democratic Course
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states, particularly Egypt. Now splits within the world’s oldest and largest Islamic political group indicate that it is at a decisive crossroads.
By James M. Dorsey | Qantara
The strain of the repression is, however, starting to take its toll on the Brotherhood. . Splits within the Egyptian movement after Supreme Guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef announced that he would not stand for re-election in January of next year have spilled onto the pages of the Egyptian media. Conservatives in the movement blocked Akef’s nomination of a leading reformer to the movement’s leadership council.
“This is dangerously short-sighted. It weakens the foundations of democracy as a whole … and has a corrosive effect on public freedoms, transparency and accountability,” Marc Lynch, an expert on the Brotherhood at Washington’s George Washington University, told Deutsche Welle. That, however, may well be the purpose of the crackdown.
“It is in the (Egyptian) government’s advantage to keep the Brotherhood ultra-conservative, ” Khalil al-Anani, an Egyptian expert on radical Islam, told Deutsche Welle. “The more democratic the group gets, the more popular it will become in the country.”
Carnegie Endowment’s Ottaway notes that repression by Arab governments coupled with their own inexperience in formulating polices has ensured that the Muslim Brotherhood has little to show for its endorsement of the democratic process.
“The present weakening of Islamist parties that sought to participate in the political system is not a positive development for the future of political reform in the Arab world. Because the secular opposition is extremely ineffectual everywhere, the weakening of Islamist forces means the weakening of all opposition, and governments are unlikely to reform if they do not confront domestic pressure and demands,” Ottaway says.
Privately, several European officials and diplomats say they favor integration of moderate Islamists into the political life of the Arab world. They note that the Brothers in Egypt and Jordan are seeking non-violent ways to survive government repression. In Palestine, Hamas, the only Brotherhood group holding political office, is struggling to cater to the needs of 1.5 million mostly destitute Palestinians under its rule.
“The castrated American political system lacks the ability to act with conviction on the really tough issues so as to talk to all actors; Europe is not so emasculated, and should avoid at all costs following the United States’ route to impotent self-marginalizatio n,” Khouri said.
While widely praised as competent, critics fear that Ashton, until her appointment, the EU’s relatively low key trade commissioner, who is widely seen as lacking significant foreign policy experience, may find it difficult to unite the EU’s 27 member states on bold approaches toward the Middle East like an opening towards the region’s Islamist forces.