Why the Swiss Were Right to Prohibit Construction of Minarets

The European media are crowded with editorials condemning the Swiss for voting to prohibit the construction of any more minarets in their country. Here in Norway, the newspaper Dagsavisen went furthest of all, devoting its entire front page on Monday to a comparison of the entire nation of Switzerland with Nazi brownshirts. The front-page illustration did not admit to misinterpretation: the Swiss were Nazis, period.

Virtually all of the media went on autopilot in their abuse of the Swiss. What is at issue is the supposedly “sacred” freedom of religion, which has become an icon especially among left-wing intellectuals and the European niceness industry as a whole. But hold it for one second: As far as I’ve noticed, no major commentator or intellectual who has blasted Switzerland for this plebiscite has taken into account Islam’s political content. Can anyone in my own country of Norway, for example, point to a single -- I repeat, a single -- Muslim congregation within our borders that is secular? That is, a single congregation that rejects Sharia and Islam’s political ambitions?

In any event, thanks to the Swiss minaret vote, Islam and Christianity are yet again being brought together in a forced marriage. A minaret, we keep being told, is just like a church spire. Nothing new there: When it comes to Islam, the editorialists, columnists, and talking heads simply can’t or won’t face reality. These “decent” people are appalled by the Swiss people’s rejection of minarets -- period. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that the case is a disagreeable one -- but if so, it’s because Islam is itself disagreeable. To put it bluntly, a mosque with minarets is not the equivalent of a church with a spire. Why? Because Europe’s churches have no political agenda, and because they aren’t obsessed with the painstaking study of ancient “divine” laws that are consistently placed above secular law.

It is precisely this disagreeable aspect of Islam, in contrast with Christianity, that I think we would profit by discussing openly and honestly. Because if I could be sure that a Muslim congregation (with or without its own minaret, even though the minaret adds an extra dose of religio-political power) was founded on the same freedom-based values as, say, the Norwegian state church, and that any “struggle” involving that community was limited to arguments about things like same-sex marriage and whether Muhammed was born of a virgin, they could build as many minarets in my neighborhood as they wanted -- because in that case Islam would not represent a challenge to Norwegian liberty and democracy. But unfortunately Islam does represent a challenge. Therefore I pose this challenge to the elite of my country: Of the over 100 Muslim congregations in Norway, name one that will forever fight tooth and nail against Sharia and for a secular Norway. If such a faith community exists, it’s doing a very good job of keeping itself hidden.

What the people of Switzerland have understood is that Islam, in its fundamentals, does have political ambitions. By contrast, elsewhere in Europe -- and certainly here in Norway -- the media have been almost entirely silent about the real-world conditions that help to explain the Swiss vote to begin with. Switzerland already had three mosques with minarets. Then the Turkish cultural association in the town of Olten bought a lot outside of town and applied for permission to build a mosque with minarets. It thereupon emerged that the association’s ideological lodestar was the ultranationalist Alparslan Türkes, founder of the racist National Movement Party and the paramilitary group "The Gray Wolves,” which was responsible for several assassination attempts in Turkey and elsewhere. As several observers have noticed, the ties between totalitarian ideologies such as Nazism, fascism, and Islamism (i.e., political Islam) are intimate.  It is not surprising, then, that this so­-called “cultural association” is infected by extremism.

The links between this cultural association in Switzerland and nationalistic fascism in Turkey is thus attested to by the fact that this faith community in Olten practices far more than just religion; there is also a great deal of politics in the mix. And this takes us straight into the heart of the issue: To condemn the Swiss people’s “no” on minarets -- as virtually every public figure in Europe seems to be doing -- because the vote supposedly represents an assault on religious freedom, is not just imprecise but completely wrong. Europe’s minarets have every bit as much political and legal significance as they do religious meaning.

Allow me to mention a case in which the media and intellectuals should have reacted firmly to Islam’s mingling of religion and politics. One of the largest and most important Muslim congregations in Norway, the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), recently opened a new mosque in downtown Oslo that has resplendent minarets. What is the ICC? Well, it’s directly connected to the Jamaat-i-Islami movement in Pakistan, which was founded by one of the world’s leading Islamist ideologues of the last century, namely Abu Ala Mauwdudi (1903–1979). Jamaat-i-Islami is also an Islamist political party, founded by the selfsame Mauwdudi. The ICC’s ideology, then, is precisely the same as that of Mauwdudi and Jamaat-i-Islami.

That the world’s largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mauwdudi are ideological twins is confirmed by several of Mauwdudi’s works. For those of us who live in countries where women enjoy equal rights, his 1939 book Purdah and the Status of Women in Islam is a masterpiece when it comes to degrading women’s status. Mauwudi writes, for example, that a woman’s eyes are an “erogenous zone” that can lead to adultery. Ditto perfume. And the same goes for her voice, which is the devil’s agent. And don’t forget the sound of her heels. Unsurprisingly, then, gender segregation is absolute for Mauwdudi -- and for the ICC.  Those of us here in Norway were all granted a special insight into this congregation’s mentality when our queen, Sonja, visited the ICC’s new mosque in the Oslo neighborhood of Grønland earlier this year. Picture this: As Queen Sonja enters the building, she amiably offers her hand to a male representative of the congregation. The man grimaces and twitches, and his hand zigzags feverishly in the air before ending up on the shoulder of a boy at his side, whom he asks to greet the queen. Thus did he avoid breaking Mauwdudi’s prohibition against touching strange women.