Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Swiss Minaret Ban

There have been a lot of confusions between things the Swiss might have done and what they actually did. There would arguably have been justification for certain neighborhoods banning the sound of the call to prayer, if it was interfering with people's sleep. I wouldn't have asked for it. I have a gospel church near my house, and I rather like hearing the singing each sunday morning. (I'm somewhat annoyed by the parking problems the Church services produce, but I can live with that.) But I can understand how some people might make such a zoning request, and I wouldn't see that as religious prejudice (just grouchiness). Perhaps in a historical neighborhood, a minaret might be declared architecturally inappropriate. But this is a ban for an entire country. That is wrong, and clearly motivated by religious prejudice. In fact, according to Al Jazeera, the regions of Switzerland where the four minarets existed actually voted against the ban, so it was not a problem caused by the minarets themselves that inspired this ban. It was the idea of minarets that bothered people who had never actually had one in their neighborhoods.

Those alleged feminists who worked for the ban should have collaborated with Islamic feminists (yes, there are such things) to make the changes in the Islamic community they wanted. This ban will make it much harder to do that.

Much of the discussion on this topic relies on a fallacy that is so old it has a Latin name: the Tu quoque argument. "You do X, so how can you can complain that we do X?". Tu quoque arguments can always be turned back on the person who makes them "You complain when we do X, so how can you do X yourself?" Also the word "you' refers to a two different set of people each time it occurs in the sentence. The Muslims complaining about this are not the ones in the Saudia Arabian Government who do this. (I believe Saudia Arabia is actually the only Muslim country that bans the practice of other religions, but I could be wrong about this.)

Also, I am virtually certain that there is no country in Western Europe that actually recognizes Sharia law as part of their legal system in any way whatsoever. If anyone has any actual evidence of such recognition, I'd like to see it. No unsupported assertions please, just actual evidence, preferably with a link as reference.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proposed the possibility that Sharia courts might be permitted to arbitrate in civil disputes. Licensed private firms in both American and England are already permitted to do this; The Archbishop was just suggesting that Sharia courts be granted those licenses. This idea was attacked by almost everyone who heard about it, and was never carried out. I thought it was an acceptable idea at first, but after reading some objections by Islamic feminists, I realize that this strengthens patriarchal structures in Islamic cultures in ways that make liberalization of Islam difficult. These patriarchal structures are more cultural than Islamic, and many Muslims want to change them. Things like the minaret ban make it much harder for them to do so.

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