Monday, 30 November 2009

Christian Skylines

No - not a new air travel company.
Today's news reports the Swiss referendum to prohibit (they say 'ban') the building of minarets in Switzerland. Predictably we hear the chorus of outrage. It's Islamophobic! It's a breach of people's human rights! etc. etc. etc. Amnesty International laments the infringements of the human rights of Muslims to practicetheir religion. Of course the prohibition of the building of minarets in no way restricts their right to practice their religion, but matters of fact are of little interest to organisations with an axe to grind. Interestingly enough, when you go to Amnesty's website and look for the search by topic, there is no category of religion listed at all, so perhaps they can't think it that important.

No doubt some of those who voted in favour of the prohibition are racist. No doubt some of them simply do not like Muslims. But had I been Swiss, I would have voted for the prohibition. There is no human right that lets us build whatever we want wherever we want it. The skylines of the cities of Europe have traditionally been dominated by our churches. Surely we have the right to ask ourselves, do we want this to change? Openness to other cultures and other faiths, and a welcoming attitude towards them, does not mean that we have to simply say yes to everything they may want to do.

And let's face it, many Muslims do not themselves believe in this kind of freedom. A while back there was a proposal for building a Mosque in Sweden, and the Swedish authorities said that it could be done provided a church could be built in Saudi-Arabia. The Mosque was not built. None of this is a denial of human rights. Nowhere in the west would deny the rights of the Muslims or anyone else to build places for worship and to practise their faith there. But like the rest of us, they must keep within local planning restrictions - and that, really, is what this storm in a teacup is all about.