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Minarets in Switzerland

The 29 November referendum in Switzerland on whether to allow minarets to be built there or not saw a ‘no’ vote. It at once unleashed a storm of outraged and hypocritical political correctness – as well as threats by some wealthy Arabs to withdraw their money from Swiss banks. This was followed by expressions of sympathy for the Swiss decision in both France and Germany. In Germany, some even expressed a desire to outlaw Muslim cemeteries. Now that the dust is settling, what can be said of this matter from an Orthodox standpoint?

Perhaps first of all it should be said that the whole problem has been created by greedy Western European governments. They allowed masses of poor Muslim immigrants into their countries, without first asking their native peoples for their views. This was so that the poor Muslims could work there for the minimum wage, doing the jobs that the native people did not wish to do, because they were so badly paid. Surely then these Muslim immigrants should be allowed the freedom to worship as they wish? The government elites that allowed this situation to come about are secularist, but surely even they now understand that lots of ordinary people are not secularists.

Secondly, the problem is one of recent history. In many Western countries there are now large numbers of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, their presence is the result of the Western invasions and failed Western occupations of those countries. From Athens to Glasgow, hundreds of thousands have fled the anarchy and bloodshed caused by the Western invasions of their homelands. In Switzerland, notably, many of the Muslim immigrants have been forced out by Western meddling in Bosnia and Kosovo. In other words, these refugees are the result of Western meddling in ex-Yugoslavia.

Thirdly, the problem is also one of distant history. If secular Western Europe had not barbarically sacked Constantinople, the Capital of the Christian Roman Empire in 1204, it would not have fallen to the Muslims in 1453. By that time virtually the whole of the Balkans had been taken over by a Muslim Empire, which at one point reached the gates of Vienna. Even in the 19th century, France and Great Britain were still siding with that Muslim Empire against Christians in the Balkans, notably in the disastrous Crimean War.

The fact is that there would be no Muslim presence in Western Europe at all, if had not been for the policies, both modern and ancient, of Western European governments.

From an Orthodox viewpoint, there should be no problem with Muslim minarets. When the ‘Crusaders’ reached Constantinople at the end of the eleventh century, one of the things they noticed first was that mosques (and synagogues) were to be found in the City side by side with churches. Freedom of worship was guaranteed. The situation in Muslim-dominated cities like Damascus and Antioch was similar, as was the situation in Cyprus and later in southern and eastern Russia. Intolerant arrogance was the vice of Western Europe.

However, since Muslims have by reaction now developed their own intolerant arrogance, let the Swiss and others set a condition. Muslims should be absolutely free to build mosques and minarets wherever they want in Europe – on one condition. This is that Christians should be free to open churches, cathedrals and seminaries in countries and regions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia… Are these countries not Western allies…? Are Western troops not dying in some of them for the sake, we are told, of ‘freedom and democracy’?

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