So Nicolas Sarkozy, responding to the minaret ban in Switzerland, admonishes us to practise our faiths with “humble discretion”. To be recommended humble discretion by President Sarkozy is like being counselled modesty in dress by Lady Gaga, or self-denial by a banker. But France’s mercurial president does have a point when he says, in his recent article in Le Monde, that it is not enough simply to condemn the Swiss referendum vote; we should try to understand what motivated so many Swiss, and what this tells us about Europe today. How is it possible that, in a country with just four minarets, 57% of those who voted, on a turnout of 53% – in other words, more than a quarter of the Swiss electorate – could vote for the constitution to be changed to include a blanket ban on the building of minarets? Were they responding to inflammatory posters showing minarets that looked like missiles all over the Swiss flag, together with the threatening figure of a woman in a niqab? Or to ludicrous arguments like that of the Swiss People’s party representative Oskar Freysinger, who said “the minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over”? By which logic, Spain and Britain are already Islamic countries. Was this an expression of rampant “Islamophobia”, finding different targets from country to country but basically the same poison under the skin? Or was it merely anxious people crying “this change in our societies has come so fast – tell us where it is all going to end”?
more from Timothy Garton Ash at The Guardian here.