Friday, December 11, 2009

Swiss ban on minarets a vote for tolerance & inclusion

The Swiss vote highlights the debate on Islam as a set of political and collectivist ideas, not a rejection of Muslims

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The recent Swiss referendum that bans construction of minarets has caused controversy across the world. There are two ways to interpret the vote. First, as a rejection of political Islam, not a rejection of Muslims. In this sense it was a vote for tolerance and inclusion, which political Islam rejects. Second, the vote was a revelation of the big gap between how the Swiss people and the Swiss elite judge political Islam.

In the battle of ideas, symbols are important.

What if the Swiss voters were asked in a referendum to ban the building of an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles as a symbol of the belief of a small minority? Or imagine a referendum on building towers topped with a hammer and sickle – another symbol dear to the hearts of a very small minority in Switzerland.

Political ideas have symbols: A swastika, a hammer and sickle, a minaret, a crescent with a star in the middle (usually on top of a minaret) all represent a collectivist political theory of supremacy by one group over all others.

On controversial issues, the Swiss listen to debate, read newspapers, and otherwise investigate when they make up their minds for a vote. What Europeans are finding out about Islam as they investigate is that it is more than just a religion. Islam offers not only a spiritual framework for dealing with such human questions as birth, death, and what ought to come after this world; it prescribes a way of life.

Islam is an idea about how society should be organized: the individual's relationship to the state; the relationship between men and women; rules for the interaction between believers and unbelievers; how to enforce such rules; and why a government under Islam is better than a government founded on other ideas. These political ideas of Islam have their symbols: the minaret, the crescent; the head scarf, and the sword. The minaret is a symbol of Islamist supremacy, a token of domination that came to symbolize Islamic conquest. It was introduced decades after the founding of Islam.

In Europe, as in other places in the world where Muslims settle, the places of worship are simple at first. All that a Muslim needs to fulfill the obligation of prayer is a compass to indicate the direction of Mecca, water for ablution, a clean prayer mat, and a way of telling the time so as to pray five times a day in the allocated period. The construction of large mosques with extremely tall towers that cost millions of dollars to erect are considered only after the demography of Muslims becomes significant. The mosque evolves from a prayer house to a political center. Imams can then preach a message of self-segregation and a bold rejection of the ways of the non-Muslims.

Men and women are separated; gays, apostates and Jews are openly condemned; and believers organize around political goals that call for the introduction of forms of sharia (Islamic) law, starting with family law. This is the trend we have seen in Europe, and also in other countries where Muslims have settled. None of those Western academics, diplomats, and politicians who condemn the Swiss vote to ban the minaret address, let alone dispute, these facts.

In their response to the presence of Islam in their midst, Europeans have developed what one can discern as roughly two competing views. The first view emphasizes accuracy. Is it accurate to equate political symbols like those used by Communists and Nazis with a religious symbol like the minaret and its accessories of crescent and star; the uniforms of the Third Reich with the burqa and beards of current Islamists?

If it is accurate, then Islam, as a political movement, should be rejected on the basis of its own bigotry. In this view, Muslims should not be rejected as residents or citizens. The objection is to practices that are justified in the name of Islam, like honor killings, jihad, the we-versus-they perspective, the self-segregation. In short, Islamist supremacy.

The second view refuses to equate political symbols of various forms of white fascism with the symbols of a religion. In this school of thought, Islamic Scripture is compared to Christian and Jewish Scripture. Those who reason from this perspective preach pragmatism. According to them, the key to the assimilation of Muslims is dialogue. They are prepared to appease some of the demands that Muslim minorities make in the hope that one day their attachment to radical Scripture will wear off like that of Christian and Jewish peoples.

These two contrasting perspectives correspond to two quite distinct groups in Europe. The first are mainly the working class. The second are the classes that George Orwell described as "indeterminate." Cosmopolitan in outlook, they include diplomats, businesspeople, mainstream politicians, and journalists. They are well versed in globalization and tend to focus on the international image of their respective countries. With every conflict between Islam and the West, they emphasize the possible backlash from Muslim countries and how that will affect the image of their country.

By contrast, those who reject the ideas and practices of political Islam are in touch with Muslims on a local level. They have been asked to accept Muslim immigrants as neighbors, classmates, colleagues – they are what Americans would refer to as Main Street. Here is the great paradox of today's Europe: that the working class, who voted for generations for the left, now find themselves voting for right-wing parties because they feel that the social democratic parties are out of touch.

The pragmatists, most of whom are power holders, are partially right when they insist that the integration of Muslims will take a very long time. Their calls for dialogue are sensible. But as long as they do not engage Muslims to make a choice between the values of the countries that they have come to and those of the countries they left, they will find themselves faced with more surprises. And this is what the Swiss vote shows us. This is a confrontation between local, working-class voters (and some middle-class feminists) and Muslim immigrant newcomers who feel that they are entitled, not only to practice their religion, but also to replace the local political order with that of their own.

Look carefully at the reactions of the Swiss, EU and UN elites. The Swiss government is embarrassed by the outcome of the vote. The Swedes, who are currently chairing EU meetings, have condemned the Swiss vote as intolerant and xenophobic. It is remarkable that the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said in public that the Swiss vote is a poor act of diplomacy. What he overlooks is that this is a discussion of Islam as a domestic issue. It has nothing to do with foreign policy.

The Swiss vote highlights the debate on Islam as a domestic issue in Europe. That is, Islam as a set of political and collectivist ideas. Native Europeans have been asked over and over again by their leaders to be tolerant and accepting of Muslims. They have done that. And that can be measured a) by the amount of taxpayer money that is invested in healthcare, housing, education, and welfare for Muslims and b) the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who are knocking on the doors of Europe to be admitted. If those people who cry that Europe is intolerant are right, if there was, indeed, xenophobia and a rejection of Muslims, then we would have observed the reverse. There would have been an exodus of Muslims out of Europe.

There is indeed a wider international confrontation between Islam and the West. The Iraq and Afghan wars are part of that, not to mention the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and the nuclear ambitions of Iran. That confrontation should never be confused with the local problem of absorbing those Muslims who have been permitted to become permanent residents and citizens into European societies.


Britain's Batty Hatty's wrong again - marriage IS a big deal

Harriet Harman has launched a sneaky attack on Tory plans to give tax breaks to married couples. Ms Harman claims that David Cameron will end up stigmatising families who don't fit the traditional two-parent model. The Tories, she argues, have got no business telling other people how they should live their lives. Heaven forbid! That's Harriet's job.

Let's forget Batty Hatty's breathtaking hypocrisy for a moment. What really makes me want to shake Labour's deputy leader is that she knows full well that being brought up by married parents gives a child the best possible chance in life. That's not a political prejudice, it's a fact. Kids who are raised by a mum and a dad, even if they live in poverty, are far less likely to end up with mental health issues or go to jail. They do better at school. They have fewer drug and alcohol problems, and fewer teenage pregnancies. They are also more likely to stay married themselves, and to stick around for their own children.

That doesn't mean single or divorced parents can't do a great job of raising their kids. I know plenty who do. It just makes it a damn sight harder. And there are far too many feckless individuals out there who don't even try. One in three British children whose parents split up over the past 20 years has lost contact permanently with their dads. It's such a cruel statistic. An amputation of the heart. The emotional carnage that loss causes each young person is appalling, let alone the long-term collateral damage to society.

We know that one in ten children from broken families is left feeling suicidal by the rift, while many more seek solace in drink, drugs and crime.

Are you listening, Harriet, with your gushing and complacent 'We don't favour one way of family life over another'? Well, children favour one way of family life over another. Or don't their feelings count because they can't vote for New Labour?

Most Britons would not willingly put the clock back to an era when you risked being a social outcast if you chose to leave a dead or abusive marriage. Yet if we believe Batty Hatty and treat all family arrangements as equal to avoid hurting people's feelings, where do we end up?

With Karen Matthews and her seven kids by five different dads, all supported by a warped tax and benefits system which actually discriminates in favour of the unmarried and the irresponsible. Madness.

To his credit, on Monday, David Cameron entered the lioness's den, telling the single-parent charity Gingerbread that government cannot remain 'neutral' on the issue of family. The tax and benefits system, he said, has 'got to send long-term signals about commitment' and the value of marriage.

Some people may feel that the Tory leader didn't go nearly far enough. Why didn't he point out the calamitous effect that fatherlessness, in particular, has had on our underclass?

I happen to think David Cameron is doing something that is as brave as it is unfashionable. He's saying something because he believes it's right - especially for children - not because it's what people want to hear. He's telling the men and women who are financially worse off because they're married that they are not fools to try to stick together.

'No one needs a Tory tax incentive to value their marriage,' says Harriet Harman. Perhaps not. But anything that makes marriage and long-term commitment look attractive to people has got to be worth a try.


More British "elf n safety" extremism

In an age of Big Brother, the nanny state and elf 'n' safety, this cycle path in South London is a very definite sign of the times. Most cyclists venturing on to the thoroughfare in Elephant and Castle would have been left in little doubt as to who was allowed to go where.

Vigilant workmen used gallons of paint to mark out hundreds of bicycles and 'SLOW' notices along the route on the New Kent Road. A bicycle appears roughly every 7 - 10 feet.

Despite the extra indication of which direction cyclists should travel, one commuter proved that there are always exceptions to the rule as he appeared to be going the wrong way. Perhaps it proves that despite the best intentions, people won't always toe the dotted line.

The increased visibility could be in response to a sharp rise in cyclist deaths. Recent Department of Transport figures reveal that 820 cyclists lost their lives or were seriously injured in the three months to June - an increase of 19 per cent on the same time span last year.


Australia: Some stupid comments on the monarchy

By Barry Everingham -- "a Melbourne writer and commenter on royalty". All he has is hostility. He doesn't even know the difference between Sandringham and Balmoral. Sandringham is in Norfolk, not Scotland. Note for American readers: The Queen is Queen of Australia as well as Queen of England. Australia is a monarchy and there is strong popular support for it remaining so -- much as Australian Leftists hate that

Dear oh dear – the Queen of Australia and her other realms and territories beyond the seas – is very angry. She’s sick and tired of the paparazzi lurking behind the clipped hedges at Sandringham – her multi million pounds holiday house in Scotland – taking pictures of the rollicking royals on their Christmas break. Privacy? What privacy?Privacy? What privacy?

So angry is the Australian head of state, she’s threatening to invoke laws if any of the snappers are caught in the royal grounds – there’s nothing she can do if they stay outside the castle’s fences so the guess is ladders will be the orders of the day.

What the Queen fails to understand is that she, along with the other members of her family are nothing more or nothing less than paid public servants. They get their fortnightly cheques from Whitehall – which are taxed these days – and they go about doing what they are paid to do: open; open fetes, cut ribbons, launch ships and other important day to day duties....

More HERE, if you want to read drivel.


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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