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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Muslim Conundrum: Combating Minaret Decision Without Riots (Updated)

Human rights groups as well as Muslim leaders have come out against the passing of a referendum in Switzerland preventing the building of more minarets. A typical Muslim response:

"It's an indication that fascist and far-right groups are growing in number and in strength," Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary-General for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and an imam for the Muslim community in Leicester told The Media Line.

"This should be very worrying for all decent Europeans who wish to see the diversity of our continent continue in order to help our communities be cohesive and peaceful," he said. "The MCB is extremely disappointed that a country in modern-day Europe has such a significant population with such a dislike for diversity, particularly for Islam and for Muslims."

But at the same time, there seems to be a growing awareness that although there is an enormous anger and response that Muslim leaders can summon up, it is not in their best interests:

There are concerns the referendum results will have a similar effect to the 2005 Danish political cartoons, in which depictions of the Prophet Muhammad sparked anti-Danish boycotts and violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world.

"I would call upon all Muslims not to demonstrate or take to the streets," Mogra stressed. "This simply gives ammunition to those who wish to portray us as violent extremists. We need to be dignified and challenge this through the democratic process that we have available to us as Europeans."

Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced the vote, calling it an "insult" to Muslims around the world and "provocative behavior," but urged Muslims to be restrained in their response.

A lot has been written about how the Swiss response to Muslim influence could be a turning point in the European response to the threat of Islamist encroachment.

By the same token, if Muslims react through 'the system' as opposed to resorting to riots--that would also be a major development.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson has a suggestion on how such dialog could progress:

Perhaps the Swiss plebiscite to ban the construction of new minarets will spark a much-needed ecumenical dialogue between Western Christianity and Islam. Here's a suggestion: In response to the Swiss model, Saudi Arabia or Gaza or Iran would in turn allow new Christian churches to be built to accommodate converts or immigrants, but would insist on no ostentatious spires. Who could object to such moral equivalence?
If I were a cynic, I might say that freedom of religion seems to be one of those things on accepts on oneself without imposing on another--especially if the other doesn't much believe in freedom in the first place.

If.

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