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.
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.