It had occurred to me earlier to day to post on the subject, but circumstances, as usual, conspired to prevent it before Steve put up his own post - I hope then that another post on the subject will be welcome.
One notable fact arising out of this event is that a considerable percentage of the Swiss electorate lied to the pollsters, expressing opposition to the measure before passing it. Notable, because people have taken the measure of their political establishments - the media being creatures of these - and, rather than calling down upon their weary ears a few weeks of politically correct dunning by openly avowing their support for the measure, simply withheld the truth from people who do only ill with it, and then carried out their intentions. Though I have not been to Switzerland, my father and I have traveled to numerous Western European nations; in every one of them, there is a current of alienation, among ordinary, non-political folks, from the establishments, political, economic, and media. Why should Switzerland be any different?
It is worthwhile, though, to reflect upon the following Stratfor analysis, for it affords a window on the mindset of the establishment, as well as their strategy moving forward:
Voters in Switzerland on Nov. 29 approved a ban on the construction of new minarets in the country. The ban has already stirred up criticism in the Muslim world, with Egypt’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa speaking out against it. The ban also could create unrest in Muslim countries similar to that seen during the Danish cartoon controversy and stir up anger in Europe.
Switzerland on Nov. 29 banned the construction of new minarets, with 57 percent of voters and 22 out of its 26 cantons voting in favor of the ban in a nationwide referendum.
The construction ban has sparked condemnation across the Islamic world. Egypt’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa, widely considered the most explicitly anti-extremist cleric in mainstream Sunni Islam and a relatively pro-Western religious leader due to his affiliation with the Egyptian state, condemned the ban Nov. 30 as insulting to Muslims everywhere. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, called it an “example of growing anti-Islamic incitement in Europe by the extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering, ultra-right politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values.” The ban could precipitate anger and protest in the Muslim world akin to the violence seen during the Danish cartoon controversy in 2006.
The Swiss ban is not surprising considering the rising anti-foreigner attitude in Switzerland. The Swiss People’s Party, which campaigned for the ban and has concentrated its recent political campaigns almost exclusively on xenophobic messages, has seen a considerable rise in popularity in the last 10 years. With foreigners comprising around 20 percent of the Swiss population of 7.7 million, the overall anti-foreigner message (which is not exclusively anti-Muslim) has resonated with the traditionally insulated Swiss, particularly in the less cosmopolitan cantons of central Switzerland.
Domestically, the debate over the referendum has already precipitated unrest — not from Muslim groups, but rather from far-right groups against the Muslims. A mosque in Geneva was vandalized three times in the run up to the referendum. Switzerland is home to approximately 400,000 Muslims (about 5.1 percent of the Swiss population), most of whom are from Turkey or various republics of the former Yugoslavia (and therefore are either Albanian or Slavic Muslims). Thus, the Muslims in Switzerland are as secular and liberal as European Muslim populations get, and backlash against the referendum is unlikely to be violent. More likely, the Swiss government will see that the ban is overturned by the Swiss Federal Court for being unconstitutional. Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has already said the ban contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights, which could mean that it would fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
Although Muslim groups inside Switzerland are not at all extremist, the ban sends a message to Europe’s Muslims as a whole — a message that implies the existence of a West-versus-Islam war. This creates a problem for the mainstream Muslim communities in Europe that are trying to rein in extremism within their ranks. The ban could serve as justification for the radicals who have long encouraged the perception that mainstream Europe is waging a war against Islam.
The question now is whether Islamist groups outside Switzerland will latch on to the decision in Switzerland as a rallying call for unrest. There have been other triggers for unrest among Islamist groups in the past — in particular the recent burqa ban proposal in France — and yet those issues did not spark violence on an international level. In the case of the Danish cartoon controversy, the issue only became a cause for violence in the Middle East five months after the publication of the cartoons, once Danish imams took a 43-page document of unrelated material on a tour of the Middle East with the intention of sparking controversy. It will therefore come down to who has interest in sparking violence — and it is too early to answer that question.
All of the now traditional cautions and anxieties about "xenophobia" are there, but what is interesting is that the Swiss government has already signaled an intention to challenge the legality of the measure, first in the Swiss Federal Court, and then, if necessary, in the European Court of Human Rights. As regards the first challenge, what it means, in formal terms, laying aside all of the pettifoggery about "rights", is that constitutional amendments are unconstitutional, inasmuch as these "change" the meaning of the constitution to something other than what it was previously. This is manifestly absurd, both in itself - unless constitutions are by nature static documents affording no means of revision - and practically. Are we to believe that the Swiss, when passing this referendum altering their own constitution, were really traducing the document, and ought to have known as much - that the true significance of their action was not deliberative, but revolutionary, a coup against fundamental law?
As regards any potential appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the significance is quite plain: no nation has any just claim upon the preservation of its culture; indeed, any positive efforts to accomplish such preservation will be deemed invidious, discriminatory, and possibly as prelude to pogroms. It is forbidden to preserve, by any measures states and peoples have normally employed to establish cultural boundaries, the spiritual and physical environment within which a culture flourishes. The significance is not merely political however; plainly implied in this stance is the philosophical claim that culture is not, and should not be regarded as being, in any sense an artifact of human intention, both in its creation and perpetuation. It is not a result of some perception, wise or foolish, profound or facile, of the nature of things, and the collective wish that a form of life reflect this reality, but a mere snapshot of the flux of being, the fated transience of all things - in this case, the blind idiot god of individual preferences, creating and destroying entire life-worlds, gradually or suddenly, as the case may be, in a random, unholy cacophony of destructive creation. Why, they wish to be here, and to be Muslim here, and who are we to dare preserve our own cultural integrity in the face of such desires! In all honesty, I cannot take seriously such a position on the nature of culture. Anything that contravenes virtually all of human history, save modernity's senescence in our own time, merits only mockery. Culture just is about drawing lines, consciously, whether that line-drawing is called taboo, divine law, reason, enlightenment, the will to power, or whatever.
Finally, there is the omnipresent anxiety that any backsliding from this position of purely a-cultural formalism will enrage a segment of the world's population, which is then cited as a reason for stiffening the resolve to persist in the formalist kabuki theater of "rights". The meaning of this maneuver is not prudential, except circumstantially. The true significance of this posture is political, more a matter of the relationships of political elites to their own peoples, than of the relationships of the people with minorities of any sort. In effect, the elites of the Western world have engaged in demographic experimentation upon their peoples, quite against the expressed preferences of the latter; when the latter have voiced their objections, the response usually has been that any reversal in policy would be churlish, inhospitable, incendiary, or impracticable - in some sense threatening to fundamental goods of social stability. It is, quite nakedly, a ratchet effect: we, the elites, will do this to you, for your own good, but should you ever demur from our enlightened rule, something dreadful will happen to you; we shall force this upon you, and you may never, can never, go back. If you assent, we win; if you object, you lose.
Apropos of this, and the recent revelation that New Labour in the UK deliberately engineered an increase in mass third-world immigration, in part to learn the natives a lesson about diversity, it must be observed that such exercises in social re-engineering are, by the standards of the UN's own Declaration on Indigenous Rights, crimes against humanity (scroll down to commenter "Stari Momak's" entry)":
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.
All notions of "rights" are the products of particular cultures and traditions, and presuppose the normative structures of those civilizations, however confused postmodern Westerners may be about "rights"; any attempt to adjudicate competing rights-claims, as in cases such as that of the minarets, will presuppose a substantive doctrine rank-ordering such claims, specifying which claims count as actual rights, and the strengths with which they count. Hence, while it is true that the above-quoted UN doctrine is the product of a particular civilization, one endeavouring to reckon with its own legacy of colonial and imperial activities, the real issue is not with the claims of universal validity (a universal truth may be first revealed or discovered in a particular culture), but with the veiling of substantive commitments beneath the universalizing language, commitments seldom argued for, let alone justified, and the fact that these substantive commitments evince little concern for the civilization that made the language itself possible. The issue, that is to say, is self-loathing, and the unwillingness of the West to assert for itself what it so liberally, and often unwarrantably, grants to others. This is a crime of the Western elites against their own peoples, for they are as entitled to their traditions, customs, and lived environment as much as any other people. If the highest values of the West retain any validity, then the West is entitled to privilege itself, on its own ground.