The Swiss Ban Makes Me Shudder

From The Guardian:

I can’t help imagining how I would feel if the attitudes reflected in the minaret vote were directed at my own community.

It’s a crude reaction but it’s the first one I had on hearing that the Swiss had voted to ban the building of minarets on mosques – the same reaction I have to the increasingly-frequent stories like it: how would I feel if this were not about them, but us? How, in other words, would I react if this latest attack were not on Muslims but on Jews?

It’s crude because no two situations are ever exactly the same, and Muslims and Jews have different histories – in Switzerland and everywhere else. But it’s useful, allowing the testing of any proposition against an almost instinctive yardstick of decency.

So how would I react if the Swiss voted to restrict the way synagogues are built? With horror, of course. Indeed, the mere hint of such a proposal in the heart of Europe – given the blood-soaked history of the 20th century – would send a shudder down the collective spine. That reaction alone would tell me that, on this proposal, there was only one decent place to be – against it.

Or take Jack Straw’s campaign against the niqab in 2006. He and his supporters made what they hoped was a subtle, nuanced case against women wearing the full veil, but my first thought was much simpler. What if a government minister told ultra-orthodox Jewish men that, in their full beards, it was hard to tell them apart, or that he disliked the custom that commands ultra-orthodox Jewish women to cut off their hair, covering their heads with either a wig or a hat? No matter how subtle or nuanced his reasons, I would feel that this was, at best, an act of bullying directed at a vulnerable minority or, at worst, the first step towards something much more menacing.

[Read more at The Guardian]

1 Comment on "The Swiss Ban Makes Me Shudder"

  1. Word Eater | Dec 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm |

    A particular women's movement was partially responsible for the ban.

    The minarets were seen as phallic symbols and the group played the “slippery slope” card of falling into Sharia Law and how women are considered under it.

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