The Swiss vote to ban the building of minarets is a surprise outcome, and believers in multiculturalism won’t like it, but the Swiss have an admirably democratic system (arguably the best in the world), based on direct democracy, which many so-called liberals fear, because it expresses the will of the people rather than the will of a few arrogant politicians and lobby groups with a superiority complex and a belief that they are the moral custodians of the nation.
The Swiss are a well-informed and politically-engaged people (because they wield real political power). Historically, they have voted responsibly and contrary to what would be considered ‘populist policies’, such as the reintroduction of the death penalty, but clearly, this issue of minarets has struck a nerve with the average Swiss voter.
Contrary to popular belief, Switzerland is actually quite cosmopolitan. Within its own borders, the country has four official languages and ethnic groups (German, French, Italian, and Romansh) and a confederalist approach to everything (i.e. political decisions are made at the lowest possible level, and only issues which are of national significance are made at national level).
I lived in Switzerland for a total of a year over three seasons working in Swiss hotels, got to know the people reasonably well, and took an interest in how a country I came to admire was governed.
The Swiss are not vested with a great sense of humour, but they are objective to the point of obsession (reflected in their neutrality). In spite of political efforts to push towards EU membership, the people have persistently rejected any such moves, preferring to retain bilateral agreements with the EU and opt-in to EU initiatives where it is beneficial, such as the Schengen Agreement on the removal of border checks within EU countries.
They are an insular people (right down to communal level), but I would not describe them as racist. There is a large Gastarbeiter (guest worker) contingency in the Swiss workforce (I was one myself, as were many others in the hotel workforce) and they appreciate the importance of controlled immigration. At the same time, they value their freedom, democracy, and are happy to fly in the face of ‘multiculturalism’.
To this day, the Swiss still keep an eye on their neighbour to the North and possess an almost paranoid view of the likelihood of invasion. There is nuclear bunker space for every Swiss citizen and any new buildings must have bunker provision. They retain their view on a popular army, made up from all male citizens between a certain age range. Roads are built to allow for fighter jet landings, bridges are rigged with explosives, so that they may be destroyed if need be, innocent mountain huts contain control centres, and there are all manner of secret places from which guerilla warfare can be conducted. Hitler seriously considered and drew up plans for the invasion and occupation of Switzerland in World War 2, but decided against it, supposedly because he knew he could not take and keep the whole country, even if marching into the northern industrial heartland would have been relatively easy.
If you live in Switzerland, you do it their way or you are welcome to leave. Yet the Swiss people’s decision to forbid the building of minarets will be decried by many as racist. The multiculturalists and certain political classes are already acting like the bad losers they are and will supposedly appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court or the European Court of Human Rights over the decision.
That is just disgraceful. Such people do not have a moral monopoly. I am sure that the Swiss people have witnessed how successfully (or otherwise) multiculturalism (with particular reference to Islam) is taking place within neighbouring countries and have decided to send a clear signal that they do not wish to go down that line.
Regardless of anyone’s views on the issue of minarets, at least the Swiss citizens have had the opportunity to decide on this issue, and it is simply arrogance in the extreme to attempt to overturn the decision on the assumption that the people have made the ‘wrong’ decision.
The EU and most national governments could learn a great deal about real democracy and localisation of politics from Switzerland. After all, they do quite well for a land-locked country of four distinct languages, with no natural resources of any significance and a population of under 8 million. Maybe it’s because they have a system of perpetual coalition and direct democracy, so the politicians can get on running the country instead of spending their time fighting each other.
It’s racism, pure and simple. You only have to look at the SWP’s charming campaign posters to see that (here and here).
And to present it as a shining example of democracy is bull; this is the tyranny of the majority. As you know I’ve long been an advocate of Direct Democracy, this decision is making me rethink that view.
It’s appalling and the Swiss should be ashamed.
Yes, I saw those posters in the run up to the vote. Of course, they are quite striking and they are in poor taste, but you would expect little else from the SWP. In fact, I would imagine if anything (from what I read) they did their campaign more harm than good.
I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as ‘tyranny of the majority’ – that’s an extremely arrogant point of view. What has happened is true democracy in action, and, whilst you may not be happy about the outcome, that is the will of the people.
In the UK, public opinion is generally ignored (or the Iraq War may not have happened, and as you know I was in favour) by the political classes. On that issue, you may have been happy with the outcome and I would not have been, but I would have been content that it was the will of the people and could live with that. The people would know who to blame for any eventual outcome, good or bad – themselves.
The records show that the Swiss do not vote on ‘populist’ lines, but are quite capable of making mature decisions, sometimes difficult ones. They are not ‘Sun readers’ and you can hardly call a country whose population is comprises nearly 25% foreign workers anything other than open to immigration.
Their view is simple and easy to understand. Yes to tolerance, but no to multiculturalism.
Repesenting the will of the people does not make something right.
As for there being no such thing as the tryanny of the majority, of course there ism and this is about as clear an example of it as you can get: the majority has acted to limit the freedoms of the minority for absolutely no good reason other than fear of that minority.
It’s shameful, whether it’s the will of the people or not.
Enforcing the will of minorities on majorities certainly does not make things right, and if anything will fuel the very resentment that leads to extremism. The Swiss are not blind to what is happening in the rest of Europe where Islam (admittedly, thanks to a radical few) has demonstrably curtailed hard-won freedoms of speech. Danish cartoon fiasco anyone?
Why do you use the often cited concept of ‘fear’ of minorities? I don’t think it’s fear at all to wish to preserve one’s culture and ideals. The Swiss can see what happens to areas in other parts of Europe where ghettos start to spring up (I’ve spent most of my life living near such places) and they care enough about their environment and their own heritage to wish to avoid that and to preserve their way of life. How is that fear? Don’t mistake pride in one’s culture and way of life with fear or racism, as we in England have done. That is a cheap way of avoiding a real debate over multiculturalism, which I believe is the real reason behind the rise of the bigots of the far-right in our own country.
I fear that this debate has spilled over into a separate site…
I don’t like minarets: I hate it when I get the ‘orange’ flavoured ones; ew, just the thought!
If I they made packs that didn’t have the orange ones, I’d probably buy them…
But since they’ve always put in the orange ones, I guess the swiss are right to ban them: they are, after all, quite good at making chocolate nice.
You can Canton the Swiss!
Couldn’t agree more with the Swiss decision, and with Herr Chivers in this instance; although I think he may have lost it over the solar roads malarkey*. I’m off there next year for a winter extravaganza in the Bernese Oberland, paying an – admittedly geeky – visit to the LHC too in Geneva. Hey, you don’t think the minaret decision had anything to do with Johnny terrorist trying to scupper the unIslamic path of those infidel Protons? I wish we in Blighty had the man-vegetables to apply some similar logic along the lines of: if you don’t like it then … Foreign Office!!
Al the best
* only joking, I’ve actually added a number of rare-earth element mining shares to my portfolio.