Jewish Journal

Putting the Swiss ban on minarets in context

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 1, 2009 | 3:20 pm

A minaret in Israel

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the Swiss vote Sunday to ban the building of minarets, the towers above mosques from which the call to prayer goes out.

The New York Times led its story with “In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam and undermined the country’s reputation for religious tolerance.”

And Muslims throughout the world have been aghast.

I don’t doubt that the vote reflected underlying xenophobia. But Dan Murphy, of the Christian Science Monitor, puts the vote in perspective and asks how Muslim countries treat churches.

Obviously, it depends on the Muslim country. Saudi Arabia aside, the record still isn’t good:

Indonesia. In a state with large minority populations of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and animists, the US State department reported in 2009 that at least 9 churches – and 12 mosques associated with the Ahmadiyya Islamic sect (which mainstream Muslim groups consider heretical) – were forced shut by violence or intimidation from community groups, and that a number of churches and Hindu temples have struggled to receive official permits in recent years. The Indonesian government has on a number of occasions stepped in to prevent church construction, largely over fears that it would stoke sectarian violence. But religious practice, by and large, is freer in Indonesia than most other Muslim majority states.

Murphy also discusses Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan. Read it here.

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