Switzerland’s vote to ban the construction of new minarets in a national referendum has been met with glee by the country’s political far-right but alarm by the government.
Fears that it will do untold damage to the neutral country’s reputation for tolerance and affect exports seemed not to worry members of the Swiss People’s Party: “That’s the way we are, this is the Swiss person, modest even whilst winning, true modesty. Besides, we’re a bit stunned by the result, great joy, it’s sinking in slowly, we’ll party in the evening,” said party member Walter Wobmann. Micheline Calmy-Rey, Switzerland’s Foreign Minister, gave her understanding of the vote result: “I do not think today’s results can be interpreted as rejecting the Muslim community. Fear of extremists and Islamic fundamentalists – I think that’s what justified this vote,” she said. Around 57.5 percent of voters in all but four of the 26 cantons backed the proposal, much to the dismay of Switzerland’s Muslim community. Lucia Dahlab of the Union of Muslim Organisations in Geneva complained: “This is a discriminatory law in Switzerland. Switzerland is my country but I do not recognize it anymore.” Muslims make up less than 5% of the population, with the majority coming from the Balkans. Switzerland, which already bans the call to prayer, has four mosque minarets but two more had been planned.