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Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss Muslims get a small taste of Dhimmitude

In a completely unexpected turn of events, Switzerland has just voted to ban the construction of Minarets because these structures have come to represent militant Islam to many of that country's citizens.

What had started out as a pre-doomed right wing initiative has gained unexpected traction with more than half of Swiss voters in recent weeks.  The ban has many of Switzerland's political leaders and bankers deeply concerned about the financial implications of well-heeled Muslims closing their numbered Swiss bank accounts and moving their wealth elsewhere.

I'm actually surprised that Switzerland, where less than 6% of the population is Muslim, turned out to be Europe's test case for enacting legislation designed fight off what is seen as a hostile foreign cultural invasion.  After all, France, Holland and Belgium are much more deeply engaged in the struggle between maintaining an open, democratic society and preserving their unique cultural and religious heritage.

Personally, I find it satisfying to see Islam subjected to a very small taste of Dhimmi status after so many centuries of unapologetically imposing the full Sharia on non-Muslim minorities.

If you don't have a working knowledge of what Dhimmitude is, I strongly suggest as a start that you go here and read up.  But for the sake of this discussion let me provide a few examples of what a 'protected' (Dhimmi) class of people such as Christians and Jews, have been subjected to in Muslim societies:

First of all, Dhimmis have a lower legal status than Muslims.  This means that in legal proceedings, the testimony of a Dhimmi and a Muslim will be given different weight.  Simply put, if there is a dispute between a Muslim and Dhimmi... the word/case of the Muslim will always prevail.

Dhimmis have also traditionally had restrictions placed on their modes of transportation.  Dhimmis were only allowed to ride donkeys while camels or horses were reserved for Muslims.  Some scholars argue that this was to ensure a military advantage for Muslims since horses and camels were the tanks of the pre-industrial world.  But it is worth noting that, whether in peacetime or at war, someone on a donkey could not be on a higher level than someone riding a horse or camel.

Also, under Islamic law, a Dhimmi can't build structures more than one or two stores high. Again, this could easily be a matter of making sure the high ground would always remain in Muslim hands in case of war.  But this could also be seen as a simple matter of pride.   

Whatever the reason, this apparent emphasis on relative stature in Islamic law offers a logical justification to the Swiss legislation banning what many see as a militaristic or cultural grab at the 'high ground' of Europe's skyline.

In a New York Times article about the Swiss vote, I was floored to see the following:

"[As a result of the constitutionally binding vote], the [Swiss] government must now draft a supporting law on the ban, a process that could take at least a year and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights."  [emphasis mine]

Why are only non-Muslim countries subject to 'international conventions on human rights'?  Why is it that due process, freedom of religion, a free press, etc., are only western responsibilities?  Why is it when Muslim countries butcher their citizens (or neighbors), harbor/fund terrorists and kidnappers, impose oppressive Sharia law on non-Muslim visitors, and in dozens of other ways refuse to adopt the most basic protections/freedoms they so vociferously demand in the west, that nobody feels the need to explain the finer points of reciprocity to them?

Several other quotes from the Times article are equally troubling such as the one from Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland:

“Most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community".

I wonder if he also feels the pain of Lebanese Christians, Yemenite Jews or Afghani Buddhists.  In fact, in many cases, Muslim countries do not allow the open practice of any religion other than Islam. 

Don't believe me?  Just try to enter Saudi Arabia or Iran wearing a Crucifix or with a set of Tefillin in your carry-on.  Muslims are unapologetic about their treatment of non-Muslim minorities, and the lesser status to which they relegate the cultural heritage, pride or sensibilities of such minorities.  So why should we automatically be so sensitive to their feelings?

In another quote, Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International offered the following eye-opening rationale to why the ban is unjustified:

"Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia."

I call it eye-opening because it inadvertently reinforces the notion that only Islam-lite (e.g. a de-fanged form of Islam practiced in places like Kosovo and Turkey) is considered non-threatening and therefore unworthy of such protectionist legislation.

I'm sure that other European countries will be watching this development closely to see how the Muslim 'street' reacts.  After all, if a simple cartoon insulting Mohamed was enough to prompt weeks of rioting and mayhem, the placing of a 'Dhimmi-like' restriction on Swiss Muslims may force Islam to change tactics from a quiet, but relentless, metastasis in Europe's body, to open warfare in pursuit of the goal that is the cornerstone of their religious texts; the subjugation of the entire world to the sword of Islam.

Posted by David Bogner on November 30, 2009 | Permalink


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I'm sure that other European countries will be watching this development closely to see how the Muslim 'street' reacts. After all, if a simple cartoon insulting Mohamed was enough to prompt weeks of rioting and mayhem, the placing of a 'Dhimmi-like' restriction on Swiss Muslims may force Islam to change tactics from a quiet, but relentless, metastasis in Europe's body, to open warfare in pursuit of the goal that is the cornerstone of their religious texts; the subjugation of the entire world to the sword of Islam.

Open warfare is exactly what needs to happen to get spineless Europe to wake up and deal with the enemy in their midst. Problem is, if that happens we could see a return of the old pre-World War II Europe.

Posted by: sobersubmrnr | Nov 30, 2009 2:39:33 PM

Sadly, I value national laws over international ones in all but the most general terms. And this, primarily because in a world that adheres to international laws, a place like the USA will be legislated out of (meaningful) existence by the unelected. And I think the world needs a place like the USA.

I am not here arguing for or against the goodness of the USA; only that she seems to be a necessary part of a better world.

For the same reasons, I argue in the USA for states' laws over federal ones. I guess I like variety, as opposed to legislated homogeneity. Even if it means some of the people don't want to live the same way I do.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Nov 30, 2009 3:53:09 PM

Always love to hear the truth, Trep. Muslims generally (it seems) want everyone to respect that it is they believe, but have little or no regard for how others believe. Time for them to have a little taste of their own medicine. I do hope it doesn't go down well. The double standard is shameful. If it's good enough for the Saudi's and others, they should simply deal with it as well. But they wont. Islam as an absolutist religion with no room for anything that isn't Islam

Posted by: J K | Nov 30, 2009 4:04:38 PM

I'm sure that other European countries will be watching this development closely to see how the Muslim 'street' reacts. After all, if a simple cartoon insulting Mohamed was enough to prompt weeks of rioting and mayhem, the placing of a 'Dhimmi-like' restriction on Swiss Muslims may force Islam to change tactics from a quiet, but relentless, metastasis in Europe's body, to open warfare in pursuit of the goal that is the cornerstone of their religious texts; the subjugation of the entire world to the sword of Islam.

I think that you're mistaken on this point. Muslim violence is triggered by the perception that the "infidels" are weak. When Muslims perceive their enemies as strong, on the other hand, they opt to remain docile and peaceful.

This isn't merely an assessment of Muslim psyschology; it is actually formalized as part of Muslim religious law. According to hadith, the obligation of jihad is in effect for a Muslim only when the enemy is weak and suceptible to defeat; but when the enemy is too powerful to destroy, then the obligation is suspended.

The violence that may be anticipated in the wake of the Swiss anti-Muslim decision will be a function of Muslim perceptions of how steadfast and determined Switzerland is to stick to their decision. If they are seen as strong and resolute, there will be very little violence. If they are seen as malleable and wishy-washy, then there will be a great deal of violence.

Posted by: Lurker | Nov 30, 2009 4:35:56 PM

As a Jew (and, for what it is worth, as someone who worked in the World Trade Center on 9/11), I share your frustration with and distaste for how Islam treats non-Muslims. But I fail to see why the Swiss law is any better than one that would, for example, outlaw the display of Mezzuzot on the outside lintels of buildings. All the law does it to express anger in an discriminatory and not particularly effective manner.

Posted by: mike | Nov 30, 2009 7:26:40 PM

I find the idea appealing and no less logical than the golden rule: do unto others as they would do unto you if they had the chance. A person, and a culture, ought to have to earn respect. You earn respect by giving respect.

Posted by: Barzilai | Nov 30, 2009 7:53:25 PM

I find this to be a very tricky question. To my mind this referendum was useless and the question of minarets wasn't even threatening for the Swiss.
I found it ironical to see some Muslim countries protest while they do the same if not worse. However it gives them an opportunity to picture themselves as victims and this is always bad.
I find we are trapped between two extremes, the Swiss parties behind the referendum are no angels - I don't think they like the Jews much more than they like the Muslims - and islamists, whose danger is real.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Nov 30, 2009 10:34:13 PM

While I see and to a certain point understand your satisfaction, I think you're missing one point - although you're almost hinting at it when you point out how religious muslim societies do everything to maintain the higher ground compared to their religious minorities. The point is that by doing the same in such a stupidly blatant manner like prohibiting one particular kind of architecture (bans on architecture! Hilarious!), we might stop them from looking (or singing/praying) down on us physically, but we give up our moral high grounds. And the way to deal with the influx of muslim people into europe cannot be to create a christian arabia. Turning Switzerland into a christian Lybia isn't going to help. It'll just let the extremists win. And as Ilana-Davita already mentioned: Extremists aren't pleasant - on neither side.

Posted by: Carsten | Nov 30, 2009 11:52:04 PM

I am very curious to see what happens.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 1, 2009 10:56:15 AM

While I understand the schadenfreude inherent in giving the Moslem fundamentalists a taste of their own medicine, I have to reluctantly agree with Ilana-Davita. It doesn't really solve the problem, and creates a whole host of new problems. Example - what if these guys get their way, and decide to ban synagogues next? There is a large Jewish population in Switzerland, and xenophobic tendencies in host countries have never been a good thing for the Jews. There are better ways to fight this battle.

Posted by: psachya | Dec 1, 2009 5:06:30 PM

sobersubmrnr... It will never happen. After their continent was literally destroyed twice in the 20th century by war, Europeans consider all war criminal and anyone who wages it, a crime.

Wry Mouth ... People opting to live their lvies differently than you is a good thing. I agree. Those same people coming over and burning down your house because because you refuse to conform to their way of living is not a good thing. Guess which one is Islam.

J K ... Nothing to add to that.

Lurker ... You are probably right.

mike... Your argument is flawed. Jews have never tried to take over anyone else's society in a holy war (at least not since Biblical times, anyway). So a mezzuzah can't be considered threatening by anyone alive today. Also, even though the Swiss Minarets are already banned from broadcasting the Muezzin's caterwauling five times a day, most places in Europe now wake before dawn to this frightful racket. Last time I checked, mezzuzahs didn't make much noise.

Barzilai ... Damn right.

Ilana-Davita ... I'll go along with you so far as to say that the Swiss seem to have picked an arbitrary target when lashing out at Islam. But it wasn't the Minaret they were threatened by... it is what it stands for. And I find it hard to understand those who don't see that fear as justified.

Carsten ... Moral high ground is of no use to an entire society that is subjugated from within. Simply put, you don't bring a knife to a gunfight. Or even simpler; I'd rather be immoral and live to tell my grand kids about the tough choices I faced.

Jack ... Won't be long now. :-)

Psachya... You are also trying to compare apples to apples. Switzerland isn't going after Islam because they hate Muslims. They are going after a potent symbol of Islam because they feel thretened by it and want to cut it down to size before they are as far down the oard as France, Holland and Belgium. As I said earlier, it may be immoral and unethical... but if you have any better ideas how to cut Islam down to size, I'd love to hear them.

On a lighter note, today's post gives a hint to the kind of knots in which the U.N. is going to have to tie itself up in order to criticize Switzerland without criticizing Muslim countries for far worse discrimination. You have to enjoy that kind of moral/ethical acrobatics.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 1, 2009 5:08:34 PM

I'm really not that surprised. This is about Europeans protecting their culture from a perceived threat, something they've done repeatedly throughout history. For years, naive political observers have predicted the fall of Europe. I say, 'nonsense.' When push comes to shove, Europeans will protect their way of life by closing their borders, expelling foreigners and banning non-European practices. France has already banned burkas and kippot in public schools. This action should come as no surprise from Switzerland, one of Europe's most insular and protective states. Expect more of the same from France, Germany and England as right-wing parties continue to grow in strength. Like day-old chili, history repeats and repeats.

Posted by: Morey Altman | Dec 1, 2009 6:14:38 PM

"and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights."

Excuse me? Where does international law state that Moslems have a right to build a minaret? You have a right to worship as you please, you even have an arguable right to worship in a building, but nothing mandates a minaret.

But the call to prayer? That can be done (and is done is many communities with noise ordinances) by wiring it to the homes of individual Moslems--welcome to the 21st wired century.

And if calling to prayer is a fundamental human right then maybe Moslem countries should start by lifting the ban many of them have on building churches and the ringing of bells to call Christians to church.

That said, I think it was a stupid and pointless referendum--the issue isn't minarets. The issue is Moslem integration into Europe, or not. Banning minarets won't make a difference, and is as mean spirited as the Moslem ban on church bells and steeples.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Dec 1, 2009 6:26:45 PM

I just finished Googling a fellow by the name of Christoph Blocher. He is the leader of the Swiss party behind the anti-minaret referendum.

I don't know, Trep - this guy is a little scary. He keeps saying he's not an anti-Semite, but if he's not, he's comes awfully close to the line more than a few times. Support for anti-Semitic literature (of course, he calls it "freedom of expression"), opposition to the Swiss banks returning money stolen during the Holocaust, "Jew jokes" during public speeches - he's done all that, and more. He winds up getting a pass from the Right because of his generally conservative platform. Basically, we're talking about a Swiss version of Pat Buchanan. The only difference is that he hasn't been particularly anti-Israel (yet), possibly because he hates the Arabs even more than he hates us.

Look, I understand the need to keep Islamic fundamentalism contained in Europe. But we have to be careful about some of the folks on the other side as well. This may be a situation where the enemy of our enemy is actually our enemy too.

Posted by: psachya | Dec 2, 2009 4:48:38 AM

"There is a large Jewish population in Switzerland",...sorry that's not right. The jewish population in Switzerland is not even 1% of the population.

I'd like to give some information about this vote, precising that i'm jewish, living in Switzerland ( but i'm not swiss, therefore cannot vote on federal level), and normally a rather non-political person (but i do vote when ive been given the opportunity to do so). That said, i would just like provide some more *front-line* information, if i can call it like that. (Sorry for the links being mainly in french, but they are from swiss medias/sites.)

The shock of the result has been enormous, at least as what i have seen and heard in my personal environment, in the french speaking part of Switzerland ( near Geneva to be precise).

First, the participation at past sundays vote was rather high for swiss average: 53.7 % .

The campaign prior to votation was extrêmely controversial due to the graphics of the right wing campaign posters, which have been banned by some city-auhorities. These posters showed the swiss flag covered by minarets and a woman in tchador in front of it, quite frightening... (http://info.rsr.ch/fr/news/Affiche_anti_minarets_villes_suisses_divisees.html?siteSect=2010&sid=11323709&cKey=1255028851000)

This poster actually made it: everybody was talking, fighting, discussing about it, a giant (and brilliant ) mediatic *coup*. Which also mislead from the actual subject of the vote (ban of constructing minarets) to a campaign rather aimed against the islam in general. Bravo to the advertising agency !

Another fact that might /surely has led more people to vote for the ban of constructing minarets are the two swiss hostages in Libya ( which have been condemned one day after the votation to 16 months of prison ...what a hazard...). This issue has made lot of waves here, and also the more than naive attempts of the since yesterday former president of Switzerland, Hans-Rudolf Merz.

I'm not 100% sure, but the forecasts did not think this referandum would be accepted.

All german-and the italien-speaking canton voted a clear *yes*, only four french-speaking cantons voted against it. This shows and confirms also very clearly the difference in mentality in this, very small, country.

This difference can be observed quite a lot: french-part wants to become member of Europe, german doesn't, ....and as the german-speaking population is in a large majority they always win.

Another fact is, that the main, mediatic leaders of the right wing party UDC are from the swiss-german part ( Christoph Blocher, f.e.)

What is also shocking the people here, is that this result shows how much population and politics are opposed.
So, i hope this gives you some more information from Switzerland. As i'm not a very political, i won't go into more analysis or so.

Posted by: Jany | Dec 3, 2009 5:26:17 PM


I,m curios as a Jew living in Switzerland do you have have guards outside your Synagogues, Jewish schools { if you have them] or community centers like we do in Australia to protect Jews from Muslim extremists .
Are your Universities constantly promoting anti Zionism anti_ Israel speakers and propaganda instigated by Muslim & Socialist groups .
Have you ever heard of any leader of a Muslim group or Org 'publicly' defend Jews in any shape or form for antisemitism or attacks from their fellow Muslims or for any discrimination against Jews.
In your opinion if the Swiss banned the opening of any further Synagogues in their country do you believe any Islamic leaders or Swiss Muslims would publicly condemn or criticize these Swiss actions?

Posted by: Michael | Dec 9, 2009 11:55:34 PM

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