Friday, October 12, 2007

Swiss oppose construction of conspicuous minaret

Plans for construction of Switzerland's fourth minaret are being met with resistance:

North of Berne in an idyllic Alpine valley cowbells tinkle, a church steeple rises, and windowboxes tumble with geraniums. It has always been like this.

But down by the railway station the 21st century is rudely intruding and the villagers of Wangen are upset. ...

In a case that has gone all the way to Switzerland's supreme court, setting a keenly watched precedent, the Turks of Wangen have just won the right to erect a six-metre-high minaret.
The story is from The Guardian, and the insinuation that the native opposition is comprised of reactionary throwbacks is prevalent throughout. It is curious that the growth of Islam in secular Europe is seen by writer Ian Traynor as the inevitable march of progress that retrogrades hope to stop.

A parliament member from the country's largest political party shares the sentiment of those protesting the construction:

If Ulrich Schlüer has his way the Wangen minaret will be toppled. An MP from the rightwing Swiss People's party (SVP), the country's strongest, Mr Schlüer has launched a crusade to keep his country culturally Christian.
The Turks want construction, but the nasty Schluer wants destruction! Nevermind that the minaret has not yet been built so it cannot be "toppled", or that the contemporary function of a minaret is to call the surrounding community to prayer, an unwelcome intrusion into the lives of most of those in the town. I wonder if Schluer called it a "crusade" or if that is merely an editorial prerogative.

A word on the crusades is appropriate, though. Contrary to the conventional wisdom about long memories in Middle Eastern cultures, the European crusades were unknown in the Islamic world until the end of the nineteenth century (the first Arabic history of the crusades wasn't written until 1899). The Islamic world was internally torn between Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad, contending with far more serious external threats from the north and east than from Europe, whose costly sustaining of a perpetually vulnerable Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Levant was played off by Abbisaids, Ayyubids, Almohades, and the Rum. It was seen as the incursion of 'the Franks', one of several groups of backward barbarians that were, individually, hardly threatening.

The idea of crusade, which was an unknown word in the earliest and most 'successful' expedition (it was seen instead as a pilgrimage), did not focus exclusively on the deracination of Muslim power in the Holy Land and a restoration of Christian oversight that had existed for centuries before the birth of Islam and that religion's subsequent vanquishing of Christianity.

The fourth crusade, in fact, led to the conquering of Constantinople, without touching Islamic lands. Throughout the more than two centuries of papal calls for expeditions to the Levant, 'soldiers of Christ' were seen to be equally fulfilling their duties if they instead fought from Aragon or Castille in Spain. There were also crusades against 'Albigensianism' in southern France (the heretical sect was actually strongest in Toulouse, ironically the home of Raymond, the single most influential person in establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the first crusade), and the Teutonic knights fought (and expanded into the lands of) against the pagan inhabitants of Prussia and Transylvania. In this sense, Traynor's labeling is potentially accurate.

But the contemporary emphasis put on the crusades is due to the resusicatation of their notoriety by the Romantics and the subsequent invigoration by European imperialists, especially the French, who recast them not as acts in defense of the lands of Christ but of European magnanimity in bestowing upon the primitive world a superior Western civilization. It is in this way that the word "crusade" tends to be used today, especially by those in the Middle East who've picked up the European conception of a word they knew virtually nothing about for the six centuries following its birth. The focus of their ire has been on the state of Israel which, conveniently, exists in the same spot that the Kingdom of Jerusalem did 800 years before.

To use the word "crusade" in the way Traynor does is definitely antiquated, but still useful. Schluer's 'crusade' is defensive. He sees the Islamization of Switzerland extending far beyond airy beliefs about the supernatural:

"Unlike other religions," he argues, "Islam is not only a religion. It's an ideology aiming to create a different legal system. That's sharia. That's a big problem and in a proper democracy it has to be tackled. If the politicians don't, the people will."
This is a story heard before, in Germany, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Spain, the Balkans, Belgium--in short, across all of Europe. Islam is a religion of submission. It is inherently illiberal. Further, most Islamic immigrants into Europe are lowly-skilled, poorly educated, of modest intelligence, and not particularly industrious. For both cultural and economic reasons, European nations should continue to tighten restrictions on migration from the Islamic world, deport those who are living in Europe illegally, and offer carrots to get legal residents to leave.

Traynor asserts that resistance to Islamic immigration is a result of the political far-right:

The far right is making capital from Islamophobia by focusing on the visible symbols of Islam in Europe. In Switzerland it is the far-right SVP that is setting the terms of the debate.
The 'populist vocal minority' charge (which is frequently employed by open borders advocates in the US) doesn't make sense. Most of the media organs are not on board with the SVP. The reason Schluer will get the needed 100,000 signatures on a petition to put up for public referendum an addition to the Swiss constitution that will read, "The building of minarets in Switzerland is forbidden," is because public sentiment is with him. If it were aligned against him alongside the leftist media, he would be relegated to obscurity.

But the European perception of Islam is becoming more hostile, an utterly predictable outcome, as Islam and the migrants who are carrying it into Europe are straining generous welfare programs, depressing wages, disproportionately committing crimes and causing social disruption, and challenging liberal Western attitudes toward things like gender equality, romantic love, and homosexuality. A similar trend is occuring across the Atlantic, as Americans see what their cousins across the ocean are facing and realize that the US is not immune:

Public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years. About four-in-ten Americans (43%) say they have a favorable opinion of Muslims, while 35% express a negative view. Opinion about Muslims, on balance, was somewhat more positive in 2004 (48% favorable vs. 32% unfavorable). As in previous surveys, Muslim Americans are seen more positively than Muslims (53% vs. 43%); however, unfavorable opinions of Muslim Americans have also edged upward, from 25% in 2005 to 29% currently.
After offering several examples of opposition to the construction of conspicuous Islamic buildings, Traynor writes:

This opposition is on a collision course with an Islam that is now the fastest-growing religion in Europe and which is clamouring for its places of worship to be given what it sees as a rightful and visible place in west European societies.
Imagine how Al Jazeera would react to a similar assertion among European immigrants in Riyadh demanding that new churches be built and given their rightful and visible places of prominence from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and across the Persian Gulf coast. Of course, that visceral reaction would pale in comparison to what would come from the residents of the city itself.

That The Guardian sees peaceful protesting Wangen villagers in a more negative light than it did the violent Islamic protesters in the wake of a cartoon depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb tells you what you need to know about much of the Western press: It takes the grievances of Muslim immigrants in Europe more seriously than it does those of European natives who vastly outnumber them.


A Free Man said...

My belief in freedom of religion has narrowed somewhat in recent years. I have no problem with the Saudis refusing to allow an alien religion to lay down roots in their land, but I just think we (Europeans) should be allowed the same right to tell muslims to keep their faith at home, that is if we continue with the fantasy that all those who happened to be born in Europe are legally citizens.

Anonymous said...

Good for the Swiss. I hope they burn it down. That day is coming soon enough anyway.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks, I hadn't known that about the Arab perspective on the Crusades.

Audacious Epigone said...

Free man,

You want to live among those who share your cultural values and societal beliefs. You're happy to let others do the same in their own locales. That strikes me as quite reasonable, I formula to get the world as close as possible to existing in a state of harmony. But in the eyes of many neocons and internationalist leftists, that is an evil want on your part.

m said...

Islam is not a religion. It is a totalitarian system of political dominance and oppression.

Freedom of religion does not enter into the discussion where Islam and its determination to conquer the world comes in.

dave in boca said...

Excellent post, and good homework on the Muslim perspective on the Crusades---which I had read two decades ago & completely forgotten [or maybe Bernard Lewis had told me---the fellow is a fountainhead of incredible knowledge.

The entire Orientalism trope and the aggrieved victimhood of Islam & the Arabs was very recently contrived. The Arabs caught all the childhood diseases of western civ without assimilating the infrastructure of an advanced economic model.

Audacious Epigone said...

"The Arabs caught all the childhood diseases of western civ without assimilating the infrastructure of an advanced economic model."

That's a keeper! I'm filching it, for those social occasions when a little flare is necessary.