Minarets in Switzerland: Can’t We All Get Along?
We want religious freedom, which is good. We do not want prejudice that is unfounded. We do not want people to preach or incite sedition. We have no interest in disguises of sedition as religion.
We have problems with anything that gets in the way of freedom. We love popular votes, and want to see the president of the United States elected directly some day, so the people have the sovereignty that Jefferson had in mind. Radical factions corrected by some sort of wisdom, perhaps divine in origin, that flows down among honest and intelligent and diverse groups, so that they somehow exercise a sort of internal control, and radical factions cancel each other out.
I have no idea how a referendum about minarets made it to the Swiss ballot. It seems that most people there don’t want these public symbols of the Islamic faith. There is a nice photo in the Wikipedia article of a plastic minaret of Turkish construction that someone put on a cultural center in Switzerland for what I suppose are religious reasons.
LA times quotes the head of this movement as thinking that this is the first step of introducing Sharia, or Muslim law, into Switzerland, something a Muslim leader is quoted as denying.
An American Islamic Committee, which addresses this state of affairs in Switzerland, issued a news release at the same time as allegations of alleged Afghan abuse.
It is easy to abuse people. By now everyone has heard of “waterboarding” and the like. Me, I always think about that famous experiment in psychology that had to be stopped.
People were arbitrarily divided into two groups labeled prisoners and guards. Within several hours the guards were abusing prisoners and the experiment had to be stopped.
Every time we are partisan, every time we get into an us-them mentality, violence, like taking candy from a baby, is inevitable. It is impossible to put human impartial police-like or supervisory entities in every situation where this can happen, and it is very easy for me to believe it does all the time, to everybody.
But back, for a moment, to minarets, those beautiful domes with distinctive shapes I have seen often. They are beautiful, cupola shapes. I have seen them, for example, on the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Although the minaret has been copied and enjoyed by many, there is little doubt that the call to prayer is an integral portion of Muslim faith, and that the minaret has been derived, over the centuries, as a symbol of that. It may, secondarily, have been part of a natural ventilation and cooling mechanism that was necessary in the desert.
I think that Europeans, not to mention the only Swiss people I have ever known, are pretty intelligent folk. They may or may not have logical reasons for what they think and feel. The truth of the matter is this.
We cannot permit, in this world, arbitrary religions prejudice.
We cannot permit, in this world, wholesale sedition, if it is taking place. This could mean something about local rules.
The logical thing to do, and nobody seems to be logical these days, is to put a moratorium on further construction of minarets until we figure this out.
It is written in a place I cannot find that all synagogues should have domes, and most of them don’t, or have a symbolic one, and we do just fine.
It has been said that this dome predates Islam; whatever, I remember learning that the dome of the Rock is the dome that synagogue domes are derived from.
Seems to me a lot of Christian sects have domes, too.
Custom or sacred need does not matter.
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
The answer is that lack of information breeds paranoia. This is a basic tenet of applied human psychology. People cannot be expected to analyze their thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams until they know how. I guess it is my job to teach them how.
Swiss have not had enough clarity from their public or openness.
Maybe they are afraid tourists won’t come if the skyscape changes from the famous postcards I used to get from those who went skiing in that lovely country. Maybe they have local zoning laws. There may be very concrete reasons.
There is also, admittedly something deeper going on.
As for the Islamics, they are not the first minority to integrate into other countries. There are ways this is done. Although people have freedom of religion guaranteed by national constitutions, some minorities generate more paranoia than others. They are perceived as “different” and this makes integration harder. We ought to be facing our differences and our difficulties head on, instead of simply complaining about them. A certain amount of “political correctness” is necessary.
Linguistic and cultural barriers are tough. People are becoming certified in cross-cultural issues. My efforts are driven by a fascination with the human spirit that overlaps and expands my professional identity. Position papers and texts are mostly paper in the wind — or ASCII characters in cyberspace. People have got to learn each other’s languages, both literally and figuratively, if they want to live in a country somebody else founded.
My grandmother of blessed memory had troubles going from Yiddish (Judaeo-German) to English but she did it.
A close friend who was born in France and has no particular linguistic talent has learned English by immersion and is an amazement, probably more colloquial than me.
Me — I had an academic background in French language and literature with excessive education. Spoke like someone from the 18th century, but I did it.
American English is enriched by the contributions of its immigrants.
My French preceptors told me frequently how people had amassed knowledge and made intellectual contributions in countries other than those of their birth. I bless them still.
Cross cultural considerations are not overwhelming. People want to stick to tradition of origin, faith of origin, family of origin.
It is only when people are open and stray from the familiar that they embrace foreigners, and foreigners embrace them. I am not the only one doing this. I have seen foreign exchange students from every exotic country imaginable beloved in Kansas. That is not even why they call that the “American Heartland.”
When we can see people as individuals instead of just groups, Americans do just fine.
I suspect the Swiss are more like us than different.
We are all afraid of what we know nothing about. A news release from any Islamic association could tell us more about what they believe and why. Getting into an us-them mentality never helps anything.
The folks in Indianapolis (?heartland??) have a nice book about “feasting and fasting” in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
They are more like us than different.
Maybe the Swiss people need height limits for domes.
Maybe the Islamics are not even calling people to prayer that way.
We do need to separate what is illegal (terrorism, overthrowing governments) from religion, which is totally free in private, and should be free in public if it is really safe, which it ought to be.
Knowledge will get rid of paranoia, if it is false, and reinforce it, if and when it is true.
Most of what we call spying is “white” spying. Most information is acquired by open means. Maybe, if we learn a little, read a little, we really can all get along.