Swiss Referendum Stirs a Debate About Islam

November 6, 2009

Author: Deborah Ball and Anita Greil

Source: The Wall Street Journal

An emotional debate over the role of Islam in Switzerland is heating up as a referendum approaches that would ban the construction of minarets on mosques.

On Nov. 29, the Swiss will vote on a referendum to ban the construction of minarets, an initiative promoted by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, who argue that a minaret is a symbol of Islamic intolerance. Minarets are tower-like structures capped with crowns; while the structure has no special religious significance, it is often used for the call to prayer for Muslims.

The debate comes in a country that has prided itself on integrating its large immigrant population and that largely avoided the clashes over the rights of Muslim minorities seen elsewhere in Europe. Business and political interests are especially worried about a possible backlash from the Muslim world.