Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Burqas and Minarets in Europe and the West?

Of minarets and burqas (
Rights or choices?

Transporting all customs from one country to another can create tensions for newcomers in a new environment.

At a recent interactive exploration of human rights issues at the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Vic.)'s celebration of the UN-Human Rights Day on December 10, there was much discussion about the difference between 'rights' and 'choices'. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies what are 'human rights' and where there should be no discriminations, particularly on the basis of religion. Choices however are different and up for negotiation!

There is no doubt that the bans, whether in Switzerland regarding the building of minarets or in France regarding the wearing of burqas, are referring to religious customs, i.e. choices, not the practice of the Islamic religion per se. Highly visible public displays on religious buildings are their marketing tools. Are there many Church spires allowed to overshadow the minarets in Islamic countries? I doubt it, therefore the citizens of scenically beautiful Switzerland are within their rights not to want minarets to compete with their own traditional Church spires!.

Similarly, there are laws forbidding female forms of Western dress (or undress according to their standards) in Moslem countries, so why should hiding one's identity beneath a burqa be acceptable in Western democracies as a matter of ' right' on the basis of religion? The imposition of complete female cover-ups is obviously an infringement of women's rights in strict Islamic societies, but in Western countries it is always a matter of a 'customary choice' and therefore need not be acceptable at all. Quite frankly I would feel very uncomfortable to serve or be served by such an invisible person in public,-(who knows who is hiding behind the cover-up? It could be a crinminal or worse!) therefore France is within its rights to disallow it.

Swiss Minarets and European Islamby Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem PostDecember 9, 2009
[JP title: "Resistance to Islamization"]

What importance has the recent Swiss referendum to ban the building of minarets (spires next to mosques from which the call to prayer is issued)?
Some may see the 57.5 to 42.5 percent decision endorsing a constitutional amendment as nearly meaningless. The political establishment being overwhelmingly opposed to the amendment, the ban will probably never go into effect. Only 53.4 percent of the electorate voted, so a mere 31 percent of the whole population endorses the ban. The ban does not address Islamist aspirations, much less Muslim terrorism. It has no impact on the practice of Islam. It prevents neither the building of new mosques nor requires that Switzerland's four existing minarets be demolished.
It's also possible to dismiss the vote as the quirky result of Switzerland's unique direct democracy, a tradition that goes back to 1291 and exists nowhere else in Europe. Josef Joffe, the distinguished German analyst, sees the vote as a populist backlash against the series of humiliations the Swiss have endured in recent years culminating in the seizure of two businessmen in Libya and the Swiss president's mortifying apology to win their release.
However, I see the referendum as consequential, and well so beyond Swiss borders.

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