my take on things - comments about all the world and his brother
Published on December 1, 2009 By utemia In International

On Sunday, Switzerland had a referendum regarding a building regulation concerning minarettes. Henceforth, it is illegal to build new ones. The swiss government didn't really believe that the referendum would be successful and has since tried to do damage control. They are concerned about how this vote might reflect on their foreign relations and location for international banking. It might be bad for business, and according to criticism the ban violates the human rights of freedom of religion. The advocates claim that muslims are not hindered to build mosques or practise their religion, just minus more minarettes in the future.

Jonathan Bloom, a US historian on islamic art and architecture who researched minarettes as symbols of faith and power in his publication, wrote that the call to prayer has always been a part of islam but that minarettes became so considerably later. Steeples and byzantine victory columns were possible models for minarettes. Even muslims weren't unanimous in their support of minarettes as the muezzin was able to look over the high property walls and breach their privacy. For that reason, mostly blind people were appointed that position in the past. Such problems are outdated in modern cities, but others have replaced them.*

I think it was very gutsy to vote in favour of the ban - I would have too. Islam does not seperate political power and religion, and destroying or altering churches by adding minarettes and vise versa by the victors as a political symbol has been well documented in history. A very prominent example is the Hagia  Sophia in Istanbul, which was converted into a mosque by sultan Mehmed II in 1453. That act symbolized his power and that of islam - the sultan wouldn't probably even have understood my question posed in the title. During the Requoncista it was the other way around, the victorious Spanish converted mosques into churches.

What do you think about this issue?

* JM Bloom teaches islamic art and architecture at Boston College and is a published author on that topic.


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