To the Daily:
Danny Fries’s response to another letter to the editor about Switzerland’s recent vote to ban minarets had some important facts incorrect in his defense of the ban (Arguments against minaret ban oversimplified the issue, 12/02/2009). He claims that these minarets would have been equipped with loudspeakers to broadcast the call to pray. Of the four minarets in Switzerland, none of them have speakers, so none of them are being used as what Fries calls “a platform for public announcement.”
Yet even claiming that the purpose of this ban was to prevent a supposed public nuisance is not true in itself. This wasn’t a ban against loudspeakers — it was against minarets. You could have loudspeakers without minarets and minarets without loudspeakers. This was a ban on a piece of traditional Islamic architecture. Even if this was about noise, the issue of noise complaints is hardly one for a national referendum. Should Switzerland have a national vote on loud car stereos or noisy parties?
It isn’t reasonable to see this ban as anything but repressing a minority group. What if it went another way and Christian churches were targeted? Churches have bells, and bells make a lot of noise — would you ban the bell tower or steeples? If churches have bells couldn’t a municipality just simply regulate the time in which they may be used? Steeples and bells are not an integral part of a church, but they are part of a traditional architecture. The same is true for minarets and mosques. If you can’t honestly support banning bells or steeples from churches, how can you support banning minarets?
We should recognize discrimination when we see it and denounce it as such. Fries attempts to defend this discrimination as the result of a healthy democracy. Simply put, just because a majority of people support discriminating against a religion, race or lifestyle does not mean that the laws they vote for are just. Democracy requires protections for minorities, The Swiss constitution has the protections built in, and hopefully the Supreme Court of Switzerland will overturn this discriminatory law.