Tag Archives: discrimination

The Infamous Minaret Ban Campaign

The psuedo-feminist slant on the Swiss campaign to ban the contruction of minarets represents the worst of so many things, including western portrayal of hijab. 

The commonly-used campaign art shows a truly frightening woman cloaked in harsh black.  She is wearing the naquib, meaning that with the exception of her eyes,  her entire face is covered. 

This is exactly the sort of propaganda that makes western people afraid of and fascinated by the hijab.  So many Muslim women observe hijab without looking dark and scary.  There are also those who are Muslim without observing hijab, or at least not observing it in such a way that we would recognize.  

The poster is misleading in so many ways.  What, precisely, does a woman in hijab have to do with the construction of minarets?  And really, Switzerland, the 5% of your population that is Muslim is really going to inundate your country with minarets?  That’s impresive since last time I checked there were only four minarets in the entire country. 

I am disgusted that feminist ideals were co-opted in order to frighten women into thinking that minarets are giant phallic symbols of Muslim men’s power over (currently) Muslim and (coming soon!) Christian women.  I am also disgusted that people fell for it, and in droves.  There is no logical reason to have a woman in a rather offensive portrayal of hijab on this poster other than to frighten non-Muslims. 

Many articles reacting to the vote have taken an apologetic tone, noting that it’s simply unfortunate that Muslims claim the role of “unknown” for the Swiss to fear.  Switzerland’s voting population is extraordinarily well educated, and I find it disingenuous to excuse their behavior out of ignorance.  Let’s cut the crap, western media.  Europe has shown that it still has a racist side, and that side has a penchant for hating on Arabs and Muslims.  This wasn’t a silly little mistake whereby the Swiss population was confused by glossy photos, this is a demonstration of just how very peachy the Swiss find discrimination. 

Another disturbing aspect of the discourse on the referendum is this idea that minarets will somehow change Switzerland.  This is, at its core, another attempt to frame Muslims as other, regardless of their citizenship.  As one woman is quoted as saying in the Times,

Before you know it, we’ll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won’t be Swiss any more.”

This of course strongly implies that being Swiss and being Muslim are mutually exclusive, and that being a practicing Muslim necessarily includes sharia law and stoning women.  The attempts to tie the religion to an unknown (but thoroughly frightening) political agenda (which allegedly Jews and Christians don’t have?  Since when?) are tenuous at best, and yet still wildly successful at their worst. 

The UNA’s simulation this past weekend of the Council of the EU (which discussed the ascension of Turkey) witnessed similarly disgusting  ideas, with many delegates citing the “cultural” differences between Europe and Turkey as reason alone to slam the door.  Apparently, they forgot the segments of their own population who have genes from outside of Europe, or that the Ottoman Empire was considered a major European player.  While the delegates were all (sadly) rather on-policy, I’m not at all convinced it was because they did their research. 

Rather, I think many of those students, like many Americans, like to think that Italians are Italian, and that there are no black or Asian people in Britain.  It never ceases to amaze me how very many Americans will remark with surprise when they meet a black Brit.  We do not have the market cornered on diversity, and we certainly don’t have it cornered on making the diverse among us feel marginalized, either. 

Thanks for reminding us, Switzerland. 

For a more all-encompassing, scholarly/political take on the Swiss ban, I direct you, of course, to Khalid, the eponymous Moor Next Door.

Reverse Discrimination

An Egyptian friend of ours, Moustafa, was hanging out wiht us as he often does.  We all decided to go back to our hotel to relax before bed.  Unfortunately, not all of us made it.  It is illegal for an Egyptian to be in a hotel where he is not staying.  This was shocking because he had been allowed in before, during the day.  We were told that under no circumstances could he come in with us at night, the expectation being that he was there to harm us, in one way or another, and that would be bad for business. 

We’ve been warned that in a dicey situation, our American passports will save us, but not our friends.  We can speak and dress freely, because we are seen as silly Americans who don’t know any better, but are a cash cow.  This means that at western-style clubs our EGyptian friends are turned away, and at the Arab Women’s Organization conference our Arab friends have a whole separate set of rules.  They cannot swim if we swim, they have a curfew of 12:30, they may not drink and they may not be affectionate with us in any way.  Some of these rules seem silly or arbitrary, but they do bother us.  They may not hang out with us because we spend our time in our hotel rooms, and they may not go into the room of the opposite gender, especially an American. 

We have no such rules. 

I asked, indignant, why no one told us about the rules. 

“You are Americans,” he said.  “There are things in your culture that we cannot do.  Just be yourselves, and we will be responsible to step away”