Monday, 7 December 2009

Minarets and Muslims

According to a recent news report the Swiss people have voted against the erection of two new minarets in two of its cities. For some this is a 'triumph' over Islam and a halt to what they perceive as an erosion of the Christian faith in Switzerland. At present only four minarets actually exist in Switzerland, in the cities of Geneva and Frankfurt, while there are an estimated 200 mosques and prayer rooms throughout the country with Muslims accounting for about 4.5 per cent of Switzerland’s 7.6 million-large population.

What are we to think of this?
1. First, as with nearly all news reports, there is more here than meets the eye. Although the ban was approved by a 57.5 per cent vote from Swiss citizens it was a very small turn out and those who did turn out were heavily influenced by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and other conservative groups. Propaganda for the campaign included posters depicting minaret towers as missiles on top of a Swiss flag.

As much as I do not as a Christian agree with some Muslim doctrines, it is fundamentally unfair to portray every Muslim as a terrorist on the basis that a small minority are. Just as I take exception with being lumped together with gun-totting Serbian 'Christians' responsible for the atrocities of the Bosnian War or those at the forefront of the Medieval crusades, so I think it is unfair to tar every Muslim with the Bin-Laden brush.

2. Second, free will is a Christian tenet. God created us with the freedom to chose or reject Him. Jesus offers us life in all its fulness but will not force us to accept it. If people wish to become Muslims and to worship Allah then it is their choice. I may not agree with that choice but I am bound to uphold it on the basis that choice is what God gives us.

3. Lastly, I am the first to express outrage and anger at the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. I agonize over the unfairness and discrimination my brothers and sisters have to face in Iran, Pakistan and the Middle East and I pray regularly for more religious freedom and an end to that aspect of Sharia Law which decrees the death penalty for any Muslim who wants to convert to another religion. But I have no basis to complain if I then try and restrict Muslims who want to practice their faith in my country. I must be consistent and Christian about this.

So the upshot of all this is that I disagree with the decision of the Swiss people and feel that it may become something they will come to regret in some way. For any decisions that are made on the basis of fear, discrimination or an attempt at giving one religion precedence or power over another, be they democratic or not, are not in the end very good ones.

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