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article imageThe Swiss citizens devoted to Allah Special

By Riccardo Valsecchi     Feb 6, 2010 in World
On Nov. 29 2009, Switzerland approved by referendum a constitutional amendment banning the construction of Muslim minarets over the national territory. What may be the consequences?
The ban, promoted by a group of right-wing politicians from the Swiss People's Party (SVP) and the Federal Democratic Union, was voted by 57,5 % of the participants and it was successful in 22 of the 26 cantons. After two months since the unexpected result, the international community wonders which could be the consequences and the Muslim reaction.
The federal initiative, begun following the dispute for the construction of a tower on the roof of an Islamic center in the small municipality of Wangen bei Olten, was based on the assumption that the minaret has not only religious meaning, but also political relevance and, for this reason, it represents an imposition of Islamic rules over the Swiss Constitution.
"Islam asks his followers to obey to legal and social rules that are in conflict with the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Federal Constitution,” says Ulrich Schlüer, member of the Swiss Parliament for the SVP. The result of the referendum gave a clear signal: Switzerland doesn’t tolerate symbols of power against the legislation on its land."
What is a minaret?
"All the Arabic words that contain the consonants ‘n’ and ‘r’ together refer to the concept of light: ‘nar’ means fire, ‘nur’ means light,” explains Kharbouch Hussein, spokesman of the AlHidaya Association, located in a shed in Albulastrasse, an industrial area next to the center of Zurich. "In this sense, the minaret is the beacon which shows the location where there is a mosque."
"During the life of the Prophet Muhammad there were no minarets," states the Egyptian engineer Mahmoud El Guindi, representative of VIOZ - Vereinigung der Islamischen Org. In Zurich -, an association which gathers under its aegis all Islamic communities in Zurich. "These kinds of buildings were introduced later in order to indicate the place where mosques were located and to invite the faithful to prayer. At that time the minarets began also to have an artistic and aesthetic value as architectural elements of the buildings.”
"In Switzerland there are four minarets, but honestly we could call only two of them in this way," says Lulzim Lecaj, President of the Foundation of Islamic Youth in Seebach, a neighborhood inhabited mainly by migrants from all over the world. “The minaret has to be a tower. You should be able to see it from far and to hear the voice of the muezzin, but in Switzerland many mosques are located in basements, in industrial sites or in abandoned places. Where could it be possible to build an appropriate minaret?"
The most "impressive" of these towers is located in Forchstrasse. It is part of the old Mahmud mosque, built in 1962 by Pakistani Muslim. The slender white minaret which rises above the building is fronted by the huge catholic tower of St. Anthony’s Church on the opposite side of the road.
The minaret of the old Mahmud mosque and the catholic tower of St. Anthony’s Church in Forchstrass...
The minaret of the old Mahmud mosque and the catholic tower of St. Anthony’s Church in Forchstrasse, Zürich.
In Schwamendigen, at the ground floor of a modern building, there is the Turkish-Islamic Foundation: "We don’t need a minaret," confesses Imam Salim Selvi, "because the faithful know where we are and how to reach us. The primary requirement for a Muslim is to have a mosque, a place where we can pray."
"The problem is that if for the Egerkinger committee - the association beneath which the supporters of the ban are gathered - the minaret is a symbol of power and dominance, a point of view that we don’t share, then for us consequently it is an indispensable symbol of religious freedom," continues Mr. El Guindi.
Hüveida, 30, is Swiss and Muslim too: "Here I was born; here I studied; this is my city, my home. Before this referendum, I always thought that I was well-accepted in this country, but now I discover that it is not true: the Swiss don’t like my religion, my culture and, therefore, me."
"The biggest problem is not for the first-generation migrants," says the representative of VIOZ, "because, after all, we have a country where we come from and, if we don’t feel well here, we can always go back. The situation is different for our children and for our children's children, who were born and raised here, who have a Swiss passport and nationality: they are part of this society, they have been living here since they were born, but now they are realizing that they are not enjoying the same privileges as their friends, their classmates or their colleagues with whom they work every day."
"Do you know what my son told me?" explains bitterly H. Kharbouch. "He said that he didn’t want to live here anymore: ‘If my friends and my mates can have a tower with a bell, why can’t I?’ Is this what you call freedom of religion?"
"Now it's time to reflection," concludes the Egyptian engineer, "because it is clear that the notice has highlighted the problems of Muslim integration in Switzerland, which are far from being understood and resolved. For sure, the removal of the minarets is not the best solution; rather, the best way to annoy 400 thousand people of Islamic faith who are living in this land."
Could the referendum be motive of new Islamic terrorist attacks?
"Terrorism? Extremism? Since 11/09 we are always listening the same story," replies Lulzim Lecaj. "We are all workers. Many of us were born here; they have studied and are living peacefully with Catholics, Protestants or any other faiths. We are all Swiss. We have no reason to become terrorists: we want only to have the freedom which belongs to us, the same freedom which belongs to every human being."
"Do you see that man? He is the most dangerous," says ironically H. Kharbouch pointing at an old and skinny man dressed with jeans and an H&M pullover. "He has been twice in La Mecca."
Soliman is Algerian; he is seventy-two years old and he has been living since 47 years in Switzerland.
"Soliman, how do your grandchildren feel, Algerians or Swiss?"
"Ganz Schweizer, absolutely Swiss," asserts the man shrugging his shoulders with a smile of amusement and peaceful resignation.
More about Swiss, Muslim, Terrorism, Minaret, Zurich
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