Monday, 30 November 2009

On Minarets

A debate is currently raging in Switzerland on the subject of a potential ban on the building of minarets atop mosques in the country. Members of the Swiss People's Party have been calling for a ban on all minaret building. This BBC article from 2007 encapsulates their arguments succinctly:

They claim the minaret is not necessary for worship, but is rather a symbol of Islamic law, and as such incompatible with Switzerland's legal system...

"We don't have anything against Muslims," said Oskar Freysinger, member of parliament for the Swiss People's Party.

"But we don't want minarets. The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam, it's a symbol of Islamic law. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over."

This argument is exactly in line with the entry on minarets in the venerable Brill Encyclopedia of Islam:

“It seems on the whole unrelated to its function of the adhān, calling the faithful to prayer, which can be made quite adequately from the roof of the mosque or even from the house-top....To this day, certain Islamic communities, especially the most orthodox ones like the Wahhābīs in Arabia, avoid building minarets on the grounds that they are ostentatious and unnecessary…It must be remembered, however, that throughout the mediaeval period, the role of the minaret oscillated between two polarities: as a sign of power and as an instrument for the adhān.”

Thus a ban on minarets is not an infringement on Muslims' religious freedom. Aside from the fact that the minaret is an unnecessary feature, it is fundamentally a symbol of aggressive political power. The message is simple: Islam is in charge in this area. Political statements of conquest of this kind are not acceptable in the West, and must not be permitted, especially in light of the supremacist aspect of Islam, and its imperative to dominate and not be dominated, or as the medieval Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun put it, to "gain power over other nations".

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