Inside Story
Switzerland's minaret ban
Does it represent rising Islamophobia or is it simply an expression of a democratic right?
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2009 08:08 GMT

On Sunday, Switzerland held a vote on whether or not to ban the further construction of minarets - towers attached to mosques which, in Islamic countries, are used to broadcast the call to prayer, but which in Switzerland, as in most European countries, are largely considered decorative additions.

In a result that flew in the face of opinion polls which had predicted a 'no' vote, 57 per cent voted in favour of the ban.

The issue first came to a head in Switzerland in 2005 when an Islamic community centre in the East of the country applied to build a minaret. That debate went all the way to the federal supreme court, which allowed the minaret to be built.

However, the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which argues that minarets are a symbol of the potential Islamification of the country, forced a referendum on the issue after it collected 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters.

In this episode of Inside Story we ask: Does the vote reflect a rising tide against Islam across Europe? Is it a rare departure from Swiss neutrality? And is the vote even legal in the first place?

Inside Story, with presenter Nick Clark, discusses with guests Farhad Afshar, the president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, Ian Traynor, a Europe editor of The Guardian newspaper, and Bern Oskar Freysinger, a member of the Swiss parliament from the SVP and a supporter of the ban.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Tuesday, December 1, 2009.

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