Why the intention to ban burkas in Switzerland is more than just right-wing politician rhetoric.

Switzerland has made a name for its prohibition of minarets. Although a new initiative is widely criticized for being right-wing populism, the topic deserves some more attention.

Burkas don’t just cause discussions, they are indeed extremely unattractive, not to say scary. Casual and regular readers of my blog might know that I’m generally very much in favour of tolerance and that I have repeatedly defended the Islamic world. Yet, as much as I’m opposed to right-wing populism, I must say that the voices which call for a ban on burkas in Switzerland are more than just that. Those who simply see the action from a PR perspective fail to understand the general interests and aims of the people. In a world in which war, terror, brutal murders and cruelty dominate almost all aspects of our daily lives, people wish more than ever to simply live in peace and find a refuge where to hide. Needless to say that in today’s Europe which struggles to cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving daily, places to hide get smaller.

BurkaBurka: religious custom or a scary trend? (Source picture: http:secretstorms.com)

The terror of Islamic extremists have made their ways around our households not only in recent times and under the terror of IS (Islamic State), but for many years. Parallel to the increasing terror, citizens with Muslim background are more present in our daily lives: on one hand in the form of a trend towards radicalization of their religious customs, on the other in form of an increasing number of wealthy tourists enjoying the luxury of the capitalist world. The flip side of the story is that whereas two decades ago we used to talk about the horrible tortures in form of a ‘full-body cover’ that women undergo in Islamic countries, we are now confronted with living mummies walking through our streets and eating cakes at the same coffee shop as we do. Citizens are scared and I believe they can’t be blamed, at least not any longer since the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terror. And as our freedom is thus being further reduced to areas such as religion, cultural heritage or our ‘homes’, citizens try to regain the power of the spaces they believe belongs to them.

It can be argued that the freedom of everyone is to walk around the way they please. However, does this apply to us the way it does to religious extremists? In Switzerland it is a general law that people are not allowed to cover their entire face and while we are being punished for infringements, we should close our eyes on visitors out of courtesy? Everyone working in Islamic countries knows how hard it is to even drink a beer after a hard day working. Is that tolerance for our needs and desires? Do we need to punish others if we decide not to drink beer but they do, or kill others if they eat meat from animals that we consider to be holy? More than a lack of tolerance, opposition against burkas are foremost a reaction to increasing radicalization of religious terror. Unfortunately, those distancing themselves from the initiative fail to understand their fellow citizens and instead are only driven by the economic benefits they gain from doing business with rich Arabs shopping in Switzerland.

More than weighting the bans or acceptance of burkas, what we need is a discussion on the level to which we tolerate religious extremism and when it’s time to set a limit. It’s good if the discussions start, everything else is closing our eyes (or veils) on the reality.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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One Response to Why the intention to ban burkas in Switzerland is more than just right-wing politician rhetoric.

  1. Pingback: Meditating Muslimah on “hijab to be a religious obligation” | Stepping Toes

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