Thursday, December 17, 2009

Swiss minaret ban goes to court

Last month, in an appalling display of xenophobia and religious bigotry, Switzerland voted in a referendum to ban minarets. Now the ban is being challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.

IMHO the challengers have an open and shut case. The European Convention on Human Rights affirms the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to manifest one's beliefs alone or with others in public or in private. Such manifestation can only be subjected to such restrictions as

are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The minaret ban infringes this right, by restricting the right of Swiss Muslims to build their preferred religious buildings. Other religions with similar buildings - Christians with belltowers, for example - are unaffected. That's a prima facie case of discrimination right there. And it does it specifically in an effort to prevent the growth and visibility of that religion. In other words, the law is a deliberate attempt to interfere in religious freedom.

The interesting bit is that the Swiss government opposes the ban, and will be arguing against it in Strasbourg. Which makes you wonder why a hearing is necessary at all. Can't they just settle and save everyone the time?