Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was being faithful to his creed when he declared, “Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers.” Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a fascist Sunni imam with a huge following among those who subscribe to the Muslim Brotherhood’s antediluvian worldview, was more to the point when he thundered at an event organised by London’s then Labour mayor Ken Livingstone, “The West may have the atom bomb, we have the human bomb.” Sheikh Qaradawi, who is of Egyptian origin, frequently exhorts Muslims not to rest till they have “conquered Christian Rome” and believes “throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler”. Islamic schools in Britain funded by Saudi Arabia use textbooks describing Jews as “apes” and Christians as “pigs”. Theo Van Gogh, who along with writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali produced Submission, a film on the plight of Muslim women under sharia’h, was shot dead by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, in Amsterdam. Rallies by radical Islamists, which were once rare, are now a common feature in European capitals with banners and placards denouncing democracy as the ‘problem’ and Islam as the ‘solution’.
Such crude though accurate assertions of Islamism, coupled with the relentless jihad being waged overtly — exemplified by the London Underground bombings and the riots in Parisian suburbs — and covertly as exposed by Channel 4’s stunning investigation in its Dispatches programme titled ‘Undercover Mosque’, have now begun to raise hackles in Europe. The first signs of an incipient backlash came in the form of French President Nicolas Sarkozy demanding a ban on the burqa (the sharia’h-imposed hijab is already banned at public schools in France). Any doubts that may have lingered about Europe’s patience with Islam’s rage boys running thin have been removed by last Sunday’s referendum in Switzerland where people have voted overwhelmingly to ban the construction of minarets which are no longer seen to be representing faith. For 57.5 per cent of Swiss citizens, the minaret, an obligatory adjunct to a mosque which is used by the muezzin to call the faithful to prayers five times a day, is now a “political symbol against integration”. They view each new minaret as marking the transmogrification of Christian Europe into Islamic Eurabia. The Islamic minaret, according to Swiss People’s Party legislator Ulrich Schluer, has come to represent the “effort to establish sharia’h on European soil”. Hence the counter-effort to ban their construction.
Last Sunday’s referendum and the massive vote against Islamic minarets is by no means an unexpected development, as is being pretended by Islamists and those who find it fashionable to defend Islamism or are scared of taking a stand lest they be accused of Islamophobia, which Christopher Caldwell, author ofReflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, describes as a “standing fatwa” against Islam’s critics. Resentment against assertive political Islam has been building up in Switzerland for almost a decade, triggered by refugees from Yugoslavia’s many civil wars seeking to irreversibly change the Swiss way of life to suit their twisted notions of Islam’s supremacy. For the past many years the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, both avowedly right-of-centre organisations, have been trying to initiate an amendment to Article 72 of Switzerland’s Constitution to include the sentence, “The building of minarets is prohibited.” After doing the cantonal rounds, both the parties set up a joint Egerkinger Committee in 2007 to take their campaign to the federal level. The November 29 referendum is the outcome of that campaign.
The resultant vote — 57.5 per cent endorsing the proposed amendment to the Constitution with 42.5 opposing it — provides some interesting insights. For instance, the Swiss Government and Parliament, which are opposed to the amendment, clearly suffer from a disconnect with the Swiss masses. The voting pattern also shows that the spurious ‘cosmopolitan spirit’ of Zurich, Geneva and Basel, where people voted against the ban by a narrow margin, is not shared by most Swiss. The initiative has got 19.5 of the 23 cantonal votes — Basel city Canton, with half-a-vote and the largest Muslim population in Switzerland, barely defeated the initiative with 51.61 per cent people voting against it. This only goes to show that the Left-liberal intelligentsia may dominate television studio debates, as is often seen in our country, but it neither influences public opinion nor persuades those whose perception of the reality is not cluttered by bogus ‘tolerance’ of the intolerant.
Daniel Pipes, who is among the few scholars of Islam not scared to be labelled an ‘Islamophobe’, is of the view that the Swiss vote “represents a turning point for European Islam, one comparable to the Rushdie affair of 1989. That a large majority of Swiss who voted on Sunday explicitly expressed anti-Islamic sentiments potentially legitimates such sentiments across Europe and opens the way for others to follow suit”. As always, Pipes is prescient. An opinion poll conducted by the French Institute for Public Opinion after the Swiss referendum shows 46 per cent of French citizens are in favour of banning the construction of minarets, 40 per cent support the idea, while 14 per cent are indecisive. “That it was the usually quiet, low profile, un-newsworthy, politically boring, neutral Swiss who suddenly roared their fears about Islam only enhances their vote’s impact,” says Pipes. The post-referendum opinion poll in France shows that one in two French citizens would not only like to see minarets banned, but along with them mosques, too.
The ‘sudden roar’ heard in Switzerland has found a resonance in countries apart from France. A comment on the Swiss vote that appeared in the mass circulation German newspaper Bild reflects the popular mood in Germany which is remarkably similar to that which prevails in Switzerland at the moment: “The minaret isn’t just the symbol of a religion but of a totally different culture. Large parts of the Islamic world don’t share our basic European values: The legacy of the Enlightenment, the equality of man and woman, the separation of church and state, a justice system independent of the Bible or the Quran and the refusal to impose one's own beliefs on others with ‘fire and the sword’. Another factor is likely to have influenced the Swiss vote: Nowhere is life made harder for Christians than in Islamic countries. Those who are intolerant themselves cannot expect unlimited tolerance from others.”
Yet, it may be too early to suggest that the tide of Islamism will now have to contend with the fury of a backlash. Governments and organisations that find merit in toeing the line of least resistance have reacted harshly to the Swiss vote; rather than try and understand why more and more people are beginning to loathe, if not hate, Islamism, a case is being made all over again for the need to be tolerant with those whose sole desire is to subjugate the world to Islam. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, who is yet to utter a word about the suppression of freedom and denial of dignity in Islamic countries or the shocking violation of human rights by jihadis, has been scathing in her response, describing the Swiss vote as “a discriminatory, deeply divisive and thoroughly unfortunate step”. The Organisation of Islamic Conference has warned that the vote will “serve to spread hatred and intolerance towards Muslims”. The OIC’s complaint would carry credibility if it were to demand tolerance towards non-Muslims in its member-countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and denounce Islam’s preachers of hate. That, however, is unlikely to happen. On the contrary, the OIC will continue to defend, even while accusing others of intolerance and hate, the denial of religious, social and cultural plurality in Islamic countries as also the repudiation of the core values of a modern democracy by those Muslims who find themselves living in one. The absence of ‘multiculturalism’, which Muslims demand in non-Islamic countries, is one of the defining features of any Islamic country, including those touted as being ‘moderate’ and ‘modern’, for example, Egypt and Turkey.
It is amusing that Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, whose salary and perquisites are paid for by the Government, should feel upset over the Swiss vote: “This proposal ... is not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland.” In his own country, Coptic Christians live in increasing fear of Muslim attacks with anti-Copt violence fast becoming a regular feature. No less amusing is Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s response to the Swiss rejection of Islamic minarets. Mr Davutoglu finds the proposed ban on the construction of minarets “reminiscent of the sectarian wars of the Middle Ages” and has warned that the move could “incite clashes on a global scale if sufficient measures are not taken”. Had he been honest, Mr Davutoglu would have added that the posters exhorting Swiss citizens to vote for the proposed ban were inspired by his leader’s vivid description of Islamic minarets as Islam’s bayonets.
Hence, those who are crying foul over the Swiss vote and those who are pretending disquiet and anguish are perfectly at ease when Saudi Arabia ruthlessly deals with the faintest expression of faith in any religion other than Islam or Malaysia pulls down Hindu temples. Nor have Ms Pillay and those who blithely cite her criticism of the Swiss referendum to absurdly insist that the vote “represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims” ever bothered to protest against the discrimination meted out to Copts in Egypt or the raucous, coarse anti-Semitism of Iran whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad misses no opportunity to reiterate his threat of “wiping Israel off the map of the world”. Closer home, Muslims are not known to have disowned those of their co-religionists whose murderous campaign to cleanse Kashmir Valley of all Hindus resulted in 250,000 Pandits fleeing their ancestral land and being reduced to refugees in their own country. Nor were anguished voices heard when Muslims took to the streets to prevent the construction of temporary shelters along the Amarnath Yatra route for Hindu pilgrims, although Muslims in India and abroad would see any move to curtail facilities and subsidies for Haj pilgrims, which are paid for by non-Muslims, as a “fundamental threat” and a manifestation of Islamophobia.
We are yet to be told by Muslims who demand equal rights and more in non-Islamic countries – for instance, public funds for schools in Britain where children are taught Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s hate agenda and madarsas in India which excel in bigotry -- what they have to say about Hindus being asked to pay jizya to Islamist thugs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or the abduction and rape of Hindu women under the Jamaat-e-Islami’s supervision in Bangladesh. What we have heard, most recently in India, are exhortations for Muslims to stand apart from the national mainstream, to maintain their separate Islamic identity, to banish women from public places and to reject all secular statutes.
Instead of indulging in manufactured rage and pretending imagined victimhood, Muslims across the world would do well to ponder over Bild’s pithy comment: “Those who are intolerant themselves cannot expect unlimited tolerance from others.” As for the limp-wristed Left-liberal intelligentsia, it is welcome to be tolerant of Islamic intolerance, but it should not expect the vast majority to meekly subjugate itself to Islam – if that is Islamophobia, so be it. The time to feign tolerance so as to be seen as ‘secular’ is over. The age of dhimmitude is drawing to a close. That is the real significance of the Swiss vote.
(This is an expanded version of my Sunday column 'Coffee Break' which appears in The Pioneer.)