Annals of the terribly sad

Somewhere relatively recently, I commented that the referendum process is a lousy way of addressing human rights concerns. My writing at the time was informed by the recent success of Maine's anti-marriage equality referendum, which stripped the Better Half and me of the right to marry before the law granting same had even gone into effect. Rather than flogging a dead horse and running the risk of becoming uninteresting (while hoping, of course, that it's not too late), I will simply say that the experience of being subject to majority disapproval has not enamored me to referenda concerning minority rights.

With that in mind, I read this (via Andrew) with immense sadness:
Swiss voters have approved a move to ban the construction of new minarets in the country.

Final results show that over 57 percent of voters backed the proposal in a referendum that was held today following an initiative by a right wing political party. Turnout was reported at about 55 percent.


The controversial proposal to ban minarets was brought up by the right wing Swiss People’s party, which says minarets are symbols of rising Muslim political and religious power that could eventually turn Switzerland into an Islamic nation.

Campaigners demanded the referendum to halt "political Islamization" by amending the Swiss constitution to add a clause stating "the construction of minarets is prohibited."
How can this be perceived as anything other than the rankest xenophobia? What could the Swiss possibly be telling themselves to justify a revolting election result such as this?

It is terribly easy, as a leftist New Englander (albeit by adoption), to gaze longingly toward Europe, and to buy into the narrative that it is a more enlightened and progressive place. If nothing else, the success of this nauseating referendum serves to remind me that America, for all its myriad flaws, has managed a saner stance (intellectually and morally bankrupt harpies notwithstanding) with regard to religious pluralism than much of Europe has.

Update: More on the whole depressing brouhaha here. Indeed, Europe doesn't emerge looking quite so gleamingly enlightened.


  1. Gee, perhaps if a Muslim leader didn't describe minarets as "the bayonets of Islam", or if a majority of Muslims didn't tolerate full scale misogyny and reducing women to chattel, and if some Muslims didn't riot at the slightest provocation, perhaps Swiss citizens, especailly women, would have taken a more tolerant stance. Ya think?

    For a religion whose mainstream beliefs about gays strongly resembles the Westboro Baptist Church, only with actual executions, shouldn't Islam be getting, ohhh, maybe a smidgen less sympathy?

  2. In Switzerland as here in Maine, they are frightened by change.

    That notwithstanding, brace yourself for the upcoming battle between former Solicitor General Ted Olson and David Boies who are facing off against Charles Cooper, former Assistant Attorney General under Ronald Regan. The battle? Overturning Prop 8 in frderal court. This sure looks like a double-down bet. It will be a winner take all. They are going to ask that Gays are a "suspect class". As the American Prospect said of Olsen & Boies, "These two have nothing to lose but if they win, it will go down in the history books". They are asking the court to determining one simple question.... are gays paradoxically different. If they don't win we will be faced with laws that will not be changed for many many years and outright legal discrimination. If we do win then all that we wish for, equality with our fellow citizens including the right to marry, the overturn of DADT and DOMA will happen. If not ...........

  3. Well, John, considering that the Muslims I am privileged to know have been, almost without exception, remarkably accomplished professional women, it's hard for me to square my experience with your description. But then, they all lived in America.

    Do I find much of what passes for mainstream Islam horrifying? Sure. But, as I mentioned quite recently, I also find a great deal of what passes for mainstream Christianity horrifying. Frankly, I think much of the relatively moderate stance Christianity has taken in this country has been forced by the eminently sensible space created for it in our Constitution. Were it given more outright temporal power, I have little doubt it would be a damn sight less tolerant and more misogynistic than it is.

    Now, are there serious problems with what is espoused by the loudest voices in the Muslim world? Sure. Will flagrantly violating its pretenses of tolerance by blatantly singling out one religion for second-class status help Switzerland? I doubt it. I think it will only make things worse.