It has taken me some long days of consideration before publishing this article, as I have considered both politics and religion as taboo subjects in my own article writing. However, this particular issue has intrigued me, and as I live in Switzerland, I feel I need to express my belief in Swiss democracy.
Some of you may be aware that the Swiss recently voted in favour of banning minarets in Switzerland. If not, check here for the story on Swissinfo. To me though, the story behind the story here is long and very far from Switzerland.
The unfortunate result of the attacks on New York September 2001 has been the total misrepresentation of muslims and in fact a distorted view of the Arab world in general. It would be easy to blame the voting population of Switzerland, but this would be absolving our western politicians and supportive media in portraying Islam and muslims in a dark light now for nearly a decade.
Yes, I know who was responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, but rarely in human history have we ever blamed such a huge slice of our world’s population for one singular event. George Bush declared war on terrorism, which was really a veiled declaration against the muslim populations of the world. Western democracies joined his cause, almost without exception.
Right leaning western media have followed this line impeccably. So spectacularly so, that in the last eight years, we have been totally bombarded with daily reports of muslim suicide attacks, muslim insurgencies, muslim guerrilla movements, muslim counter insurgents and in general, muslim activities of an always painted evil nature. Not propaganda.? But definitely one sided, biased and politically motivated stereotyping.
So yes, you could blame the Swiss for being racist, anti muslim and intolerant. But think again. Switzerland has only suffered from its wonderfully free and direct system of democracy. Where any Swiss citizen can initiate a proposition for a referendum. As Koffi Annan once said, “It is the ultimate democracy”. However, this type of true democracy does not have the politically correct safety valves and cop outs of most western democracies. The people of Switzerland are truly allowed a voice. Four times a year they vote on a range of issues. What other democracy in the world allows this truly democratic freedom?
The Swiss have been bombarded with the same politics and media as the rest of the western world since 2001. So is it any wonder that a majority were convinced to support the ban on minarets? If this referendum had been held in any other western country today, what would the result have been? Fear has always been great politics.
Times will change, and I am absolutely convinced that this decision will be overturned in a future vote in Switzerland. I mean, do minarets make any more noise that church steeples and relentless bells? No. But then again this vote was never about minarets, was it?
But I would ask you to consider the quote by Art Spander and re-quoted by Bob Hawke, an Australian Prime Minister. The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.
While I do not agree with those Swiss who voted for this ban, I do respect their democratic right to vote freely and as such respect the decision made by the majority of the Swiss voters. I must, because I wholeheartedly support my county’s democratic principles that have made Switzerland the wonderful country that it is.