Of Minarets and Massacres - The Swiss Example

Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

The PC and multicultural commissars around Europe recently condemned the Swiss for exercising democracy in banning minarets on mosques.

Good on the Swiss, we say, for allowing the people to have a vote on something they consider important. That's more than we get from from our own provincial government or our unelected masters in Brussels when it comes to immigration - or anything, really.

This article puts the argument into an interesting perspective:
Forgive me if I, too, do not weep that 57.5 percent of the Swiss, now hosts to a largely moderate Muslim population of Turks and former Yugoslavs, want to keep their country a quiet car among nations. I am still busy weeping for the Armenians, the first people in their corner of the world to officially adopt Christianity, almost eliminated from history due to regular massacres by the Muslim Turks among whom they lived for centuries...

The Swiss vote is a signal rather than an endorsement of intolerance. The Swiss, while facing only a sort of creeping, minor Islamicization of their society—requests for girls to be excused from swimming classes, or separate cemeteries of the sort Swiss Jews already have—are aware of the gargantuan intolerance shown by some Muslim societies against minority Christians. While they may not seriously fear such a consequence, many of them plainly want to draw a line in the sand and say: We will not become a Muslim-dominated society, and we will stop that process early.
You can see why the political classes in the UK and Europe don't like democracy: the people don't always vote the way they should.
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14 Responses to “Of Minarets and Massacres - The Swiss Example”
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banned said...

Note the recent fate of Chaldian Christians in Iraq, become strangers in their own land.

25 December 2009 at 03:45

Sad but true: this kind of thing needs to be done as symbolism is so important in social and political life.

25 December 2009 at 09:18
LibertyPhile said...

See here for analysis of what Europeans really think about the Swiss vote.

The Swiss Minaret Ban – The Yawning Gap between Politicians and People
http://libertyphile2.blogspot.com/2009/12/swiss-minaret-ban-yawning-gap-between.html

26 December 2009 at 10:04
indigomyth said...

There was a long debate at Samizdata about the ethics of this ban.

As a libertarian, I believe in property rights, and therefore cannot but condemn this ban as a violation of the principle that the owner of a property can do as they want with that property, be that erecting a minaret, a church, or a massive statue of an ejaculating penis. I do not really see how anyone who believes in property rights, can claim that people who do not own a particular piece of land, can dictate what occurs on that land? What right have people to dictate what can and cannot be built on their neighbours land? They do not own it, so how can they claim the authority to dictate what is built on it? It does not really make sense to me.

All the talk about Christians in Iraq surely demonstrates the truth that people should be able to build what they want on their own land? To say that what the Swiss have done is correct, because it is being done to Iraqi Christians, is just moral equivalence.

This ban was not racist, but it was a violation of the basic principles of property rights, which ought to be an issue that worries every libertarian.

28 December 2009 at 13:37
banned said...

Ta for that link LibertyPhile

30 December 2009 at 04:58
Hugh said...

Would it not be better for the UK to move to having referenda on such very particular issues as the Swiss Minaret issue, to reduce the democartic deficit here?

At present we have gone through years of talking about a referendum on a highly complex issue - that of the European constitution / Lisbon treaty. An unsuitable question for a referendum in my view, because of its complexity. Worse, after years of talk, we never actually had one.

Surely it is better to have lots of referenda on very particular questions to keep bringing the policians up short with the real views of the electorate.

30 December 2009 at 12:01

Indigomyth, not all things can be "solved" by strict adherence to a set impartial and [often] rational laws applied equally to all; with or without property rights, which I respect.
Islamic "extremists", ie, the orthodox mainstream of the observant and the pious, have no reason and no will to protect anyone else's 'way of life,' including property rights, which I generally hold to be essential. Minarets are political symbols that represent the Islamic will to power over all others in the world. There's more to life than a set of rules and the barbaric nature of orthodox ISlam will never come to terms with secular political society - it's just not made that way. So as the rest of us try to soften or "corrupt" our peaceful Muslim neighbours by being polite and fair to them, the killer crazies need their dreams of internal subversion and conquest shattering. Preventing the building of imposing minarets is one way to do it. These people aren't messing about, and no amount of Ayn rand and Friederich Hayek or Robert Nozick or all the rest will ever persuade them that freedom's better than submission.

Good point, Hugh; Be difficult for them to wiggle around simple A or B choices - and rolling referendums would oblige them to keep in touch with actual people a bit more.
Me, I favour an on-line nationwide House of Lords of whom one third are drawn by lot every two years on a rolling six year basis, .
They'd be obliged to vote in all Lords debates ["None of the above" being an option] and can watch it from home on TV.

The hereditaries and ex-officios and lifers could stay where they are and lead and draught the debates as professionals would be needed, but Athenian-style civic 'jury service' of this sort could keep people free from long-term partisan careerist inclinations.

30 December 2009 at 17:20
indigomyth said...

North Northwester,

//Preventing the building of imposing minarets is one way to do it. These people aren't messing about, and no amount of Ayn rand and Friederich Hayek or Robert Nozick or all the rest will ever persuade them that freedom's better than submission.//

I agree with your assessment of Islam, however disagree that it is ethical to enact laws banning the articulation and expression of those beliefs, whether via print, spoken word, or architecture.

I also disagree with bans such as those in Germany forbidding the display of Nazi symbols and regalia.

I will be happy to shoot dead the first fucker that tries to attack me, but a minaret, as you point out, is a symbol, a mere symbol, and cannot directly harm anyone.

I would also question the extent to which banning minarets actually does curtail the radicalization of Muslims. Are we really to think that had minarets been banned in the US and the UK, that 9/11 and 7/7 would not have happened? Let us be honest, these Muslim terrorists hate the very notion of freedom, so banning minarets seems a pretty petty measure to use against them, and risk alienating other, non-radical, Muslims who see their property rights being circumscribed by an over-zealous and (perhaps rightly) concerned populace.

30 December 2009 at 18:26

indigomyth "I will be happy to shoot dead the first fucker that tries to attack me,"

By that time it will be too late. You won't be allowed to have a gun, or any right to self defence, or anyone in 'authority' willing to help you - they'll all be dhimmis.

"I would also question the extent to which banning minarets actually does curtail the radicalization of Muslims. Are we really to think that had minarets been banned in the US and the UK, that 9/11 and 7/7 would not have happened? Let us be honest, these Muslim terrorists hate the very notion of freedom, so banning minarets seems a pretty petty measure to use against them,"

Nope - the idea is to warn the waverers - those possible would-be jihadists from the 'vast majority of peace-loving Muslims' who lack the vocal cords or internet access to use to send to the mainstream media their condemnations of Islamic terror when it occurs, that their supremacism will not be tolerated by authority and people alike.

Remember that 'Not in my name?' fifty-thousand-strong Muslim march in London condemning Islamist terrorism on 9/11, 7/7, 21/7, Madrid, Bombay, Buenos Aires, everywhere throughout Israel? Me neither.

Minarets are a pissing-competition as it would be if Germans or other fascists built huge statues of Hitler or white supremacists putting up enormous gallows or whipping posts as expressions of 'political freedom.' They say 'we're tops,' so people better join us becasue we'll win some day. That's what happens as the Muslim quotient of countries increases. Best to stop the process now.

Your abstract 'rights' will continue to disappear down the plughole of abandoned authority and official pusillanimity, and while you're fighting to the death to protect the Islamists' freedom of speech to argue for stoning adulterers and for putting other infidels and sinners to death, others will die on the way. Are dying. Everywhere. Then me. Then you.

Eastern Roman Empire anyone?

30 December 2009 at 22:41
indigomyth said...

North Northwester,

//Your abstract 'rights' will continue to disappear down the plughole of abandoned authority and official pusillanimity, and while you're fighting to the death to protect the Islamists' freedom of speech to argue for stoning adulterers and for putting other infidels and sinners to death, others will die on the way. Are dying. Everywhere. Then me. Then you.//

And what will we become if we start restricting freedom of speech? Just like the authoritarian states that we hate.

//Minarets are a pissing-competition as it would be if Germans or other fascists built huge statues of Hitler or white supremacists putting up enormous gallows or whipping posts as expressions of 'political freedom//

Then we had better piss further and higher than them, by building our own monuments, our own expressions of political ideology. Let us build vast effigies of Osama Bin Laden, and burn them to the ground. Let us hold public executions of convicted terrorists, and terrorist plotters. Let us display our conviction in the value of liberty - but let us not curtail it for others, for our opponents.

31 December 2009 at 10:47

Hello again, Indigomyth.
This is a good thread, isn’t it?

“And what will we become if we start restricting freedom of speech? Just like the authoritarian states that we hate.”

Fair point. But.
Everybody restricts free speech. Everybody. It may be self control, or via fear of hurt from outside (defamation suits, being blackballed by friends if you violate a personal confidence and break someone’s relationship up, the Data Protection Act that allows me to tell third parties to stuff their nosiness about benefit claimants’ personal affairs every day of my working life) or professional secrecy during contractual negotiations, or lawyer-client confidentiality, or not telling Mummy what you’re getting her for Christmas, etc. Hell, even most ultra natural rights libertarians would hang fire at “Fuck me, my daughter,” and meaning it. Restraint (even from outside) is not always - or even often - tyrannical. I suppose this might be the time to indicate the crying wolf or calling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre thing, but I’m pretty sure that you’re familiar with the arguments.
Restricting free speech, via choice, persuasion, sanction or out of the profit motive are commonplace, cultured, and non-threatening to civilisation as we know it and even most libertarians hold to some of them as good things.
The thing is that ‘freedom of speech’ is not a single thing; is it not a law of nature or physical phenomenon like gravity; nor is it a universally needed thing at all places, for all people, at all times like blood oxygen or keeping your head attached; and it is not a basic human right. It is a feature of much life in England and the Anglosphere as generations of people, and especially those in power, came to believe that censorship in most forms was not worth the candle, prevents innovation (not every stately home has cherubs and St. George painted on their ceilings – the toffs want spiffy new gear too), and that opposition to government need not be treason. Freedom of expression is a cultural artefact like the rules of tennis, the Common Law, the English language and the courtship rites of the middle classes. It’s a treasure, but it is a grown thing: historical and ancient in its origins. It’s one of Hayek’s ‘spontaneous orders,’ in fact.
The Islamists want to destroy all of it – it’s worse than useless for them as it is a man-made thing and goes against God as the crazies imagine Him to be.
The principle of not initiating violence is a fine thing too, and until the Left began to steal our justice system half a century ago, it worked in England pretty well both privately and via the state apparatus. But sometimes you HAVE TO strike pre-emptively, and in the culture wars letting these people raise their triumphalist monuments over the majority of the populace (including that majority of heroic, anti-scriptural, peaceful Muslims who mean the rest of us no harm) is halfway to surrendering.

2 January 2010 at 11:37

...to Indigomyth (continued)

Not allowing minarets to be built is not equivalent to, nor need it lead to, absolute fascist-style censorship of the type that you fear.
It’s not that I think Her Majesty’s Government and its local satraps are above using ‘War on Terror’ legislation to suppress non-Islamic and non-military dissent, because they have done such things and continue to do so; (10,000 or more ‘anti-terrorist investigations,’ and 200 prosecutions or something like, wasn’t it?), but most people - even our egregiously daft officials - can tell the difference between not granting planning permission for the Sword of Allah to go up all over London, and banning Comment Is Free (hah!) and closing down The Spectator.
We have to be vigilant – The Guardian and the BBC spread their Gramscian Marxist poison freely and legally and do as much harm, I think, as out-and-out Home Office censorship would do, viz., official and cultural anti-Semitism that has grown out of their refusal to deal seriously with the existence of Islamic anti-Semitism. But being vigilant of tyranny growing out of legitimate force is an ancient price that we have to pay for so much protection from many terrorist, tyrannical, and criminal groups.
So let’s be vigilant alright, but let’s not suggest something like ‘The only 100% sure way to avoid unwanted pregnancy is to eschew all heterosexual activity.’



“Then we had better piss further and higher than them, by building our own monuments, our own expressions of political ideology. Let us build vast effigies of Osama Bin Laden, and burn them to the ground. Let us hold public executions of convicted terrorists, and terrorist plotters. Let us display our conviction in the value of liberty - but let us not curtail it for others, for our opponents.”

I respect your first point here. We already piss high enough: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf, the Old Bailey, Stonehenge, pubs, all those Edwardian town halls and French restaurants and Mercedes dealerships and cosmetics counters in Boots and semi-detached houses and neat terraced houses with family cars outside and the smell of fresh food cooking coming from them.

But we still need to forbid people who do kill us or who will one day kill us without warning or mercy that the population from whom they wish to draw their support is not going to change the laws of our country any more than they have done legitimately via cuisine and some film and fashions, and here’s the sign of where the line is drawn: No minarets.


I kind of liked the burning Bin Laden in effigy at first, but on reflection I think it would be more peaceful and surely politer to our peaceful Muslim neighbours to stick with Guy Fawkes for a century or two.

Thirty-all?

2 January 2010 at 11:38
indigomyth said...

North Northwester,

Thank you for your full response.

//Everybody restricts free speech. Everybody. //

Yes, but they do that by choice. Restriction of speech by the state is not permissible, because the only way it has of policing it, is by violence, and violence in response to mere speech (or expression) is an act of aggression, rather than defence. The items you list are example of voluntary restriction of speech - what you are advocating is restriction of speech mandated by the state, under threat of violence.

//I suppose this might be the time to indicate the crying wolf or calling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre thing, but I’m pretty sure that you’re familiar with the arguments.//

Yes, I found that one troubling, however I have been reviewing that argument while reading Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz. The answer lies in property rights, again. The owner of the theatre can specify that by buying a ticket people enter into a contract not to call "fire" erroneously. By calling fire, they break that agreement, and can be legitimately punished, for breach of contract. This is no more a violation of free speech, then agreeing not to say your boss has a big nose - it is a private contract of agreement to restrict speech within the confines of the property of the theatre owner. Therefore, there is no problem.

//Restricting free speech, via choice, persuasion, sanction or out of the profit motive are commonplace, cultured, and non-threatening to civilisation as we know it and even most libertarians hold to some of them as good things.//

No libertarian I know would advocate state sanction restricting speech. Notice, all the other things you list are examples of voluntary, mutual, restrictions on speech. What you are advocating are state censorship, which is an entirely different kind of thing, because that is not consensual or voluntary - it forces everyone to abide by the same rules of speech, whether or not they agree to them, and threatens violence to those that do not.

//and it is not a basic human right.//

It is, because all human rights, are negative rights - the right to be free from aggressive violence. The right to be free from interference by other people.

The fact that it is not required in all places at all times, is irrelevant to the consideration of whether it is a human right or not. And, I would remind you that people have sacrificed their lives, their blood, for free speech, to be unlimited by government. So I utterly reject the idea that free speech is not a human right, because it is a human right to be free of aggressive violence. What you are doing is advocating aggressive state violence to restrict speech, a non-violent act. Unless you are going to construe speech to be physical violence, I cannot see how you would think that state violence is a proportional response to non-violence.

//But sometimes you HAVE TO strike pre-emptively, and in the culture wars letting these people raise their triumphalist monuments over the majority of the populace (including that majority of heroic, anti-scriptural, peaceful Muslims who mean the rest of us no harm) is halfway to surrendering.//

If someone holds a gun to your head, then they are physically threatening you. They have no killed or hurt you yet, but are in the act of doing so. Therefore it is permissible to act defensively. However, if someone is merely shouting at you, and you get out a gun and threaten them, then you are in the wrong - always. So, restricting speech is not right or moral.

Also, if we are to take your argument further, food is more essential than speech. Therefore, food ought to be provided to people by the state?

2 January 2010 at 16:08
indigomyth said...

North Northwester,

//Not allowing minarets to be built is not equivalent to, nor need it lead to, absolute fascist-style censorship of the type that you fear.//

My point is more deontological than that. I oppose this restriction of speech, and expression, not primarily on what could happen to those that would abuse that power (though it is, of course, a concern). No, my point is rather that it is immoral, of itself, to restrict speech, to restrict expression, whether or not such restriction lead to good or bad consequences. (Though, to be specific, I am a non-absolutist deontologist).

//But we still need to forbid people who do kill us or who will one day kill us without warning or mercy that the population from whom they wish to draw their support is not going to change the laws of our country any more than they have done legitimately via cuisine and some film and fashions, and here’s the sign of where the line is drawn: No minarets.//

I would have thought that public execution of terrorists (those caught alive), or terrorist plotters, would be deterrent enough. My preferred method is guillotine, but I am flexible on that point.

2 January 2010 at 16:16