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The Swiss Cuckoo Clock Sounds Off

To recall the line from The Third Man, this time Switzerland may gain distinction by alerting Europe to save itself.  Ross Douthat goes behind the Swiss referendum banning the construction of mosques.  "The European elites assumed that the divide between Islam and the West was as antiquated as scimitars and broadswords, and that a liberal, multicultural, post-Christian federation would have no difficulty absorbing new arrivals from more traditional societies."  Just as Californians and other Americans have used the referendum to do what cowardly legislators failed to do on hot issues such as bilingual education and affirmative action, so the Swiss have acted. 

Millions of Muslims have accepted European norms. But millions have not. This means polygamy in Sweden; radical mosques in Britain's fading industrial cities; riots over affronts to the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark; and religiously inspired murder in the Netherlands. It means terrorism, and the threat of terrorism, from London to Madrid.

Today the Swiss live more than ever under the fear of Islamic terrorism, because the secular European elites didn't recognize the threat before them. Post-nationalist elites won't be of any help here in America either. 

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Discussions - 4 Comments

The Swiss law does not ban the construction of mosques, only of minarets. That's a big difference.

Good point, DJF. The difference you note is very significant.

I'd be interested to see the American Right try to translate the Swiss referendum to the US. To the extent that right-wing evangelical Christians have grown accustomed to whining that they are constantly under attack and constantly being victimized, it would seem to make that schtick really jump the shark if the very ones who have been crying as if they were fundamentally oppressed in some way (War on Christmas! Jesus Under Fire! etc.) acted to... ban the construction of another religion's houses of worship. Perhaps oppression will need to be redefined as strictly the imaginary oppression of the "side" one happens to be on.

Craig, I appreciate your concurrence with my (rather obvious) point, but I can't sign on to the rest of your comment. Clearly, a ban on minarets would be a nonstarter in the US under the First Amdt. Moreover, so far as I know, nobody in this country is proposing such a ban. I do think, however, that the concerns behind the Swiss referendum are real, and very much apply in this country. If religious violence and coercion is unacceptable from the Christian Right, it should also be unacceptable from Muslims. As far as I can tell, the real threat of violence and coercion comes from the latter.

DJF, your point wasn't that obvious, considering that the original blog-post got the simple fact of the matter wrong. Don't worry, I'm sure no one here will confuse us as allies, okay?

In any case, I think Timoth Garton Ash makes some excellent points in his op-ed in the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/09/switzerland-minarets-ban-culture-war?

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