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The fear of minarets

Gavin Hewitt | 10:28 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

minaret_595.jpgUntil the results emerged, few expected that the Swiss would actually vote to ban minarets. There had been warnings of economic damage or even a backlash. Even though the voters had been told they would be singling out the architecture of one religion they went ahead and said "no".

Debates about identity are happening across Europe. In Marseille there is a bitter battle over planning permission for a 20m-euro Grand Mosque. Some argue it will dwarf the Notre Dame de la Garde. In Italy the Northern League, an anti-immigrant party, says "yes to bell-towers, no to minarets". In France they are debating the burqa and what it means to be French. In Cologne a large mosque capable of holding 2,000 people should be finished by next year, but only after fierce argument.

So why is this happening? Firstly, Muslims have higher visibility. Secondly, as their numbers have increased so has their confidence. Thirdly, they are more assertive with their identity. There are more headscarves on the streets. It is prompting a debate, sometimes hidden, about where European societies are heading.

Much of the concern is based on fear. After all, there are only four minarets in Switzerland but there are widely-held concerns of society dividing into "parallel communities".

Perhaps the greatest fear is of the known world is disappearing. For many people this is unsettling. One of the Swiss papers said people were concerned "it was all going too fast".

Then there is the fear of extremism, of terror carried out in the name of religion. Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the vote "reflected fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies".

Then in Switzerland there was a feminist fear. Julia Onken, a prominent feminist, called for women to support the ban. "Mosques are male houses, minarets are male power symbols," she said. She went on to describe the minaret as a "visible signal... of the oppression of women." Some on the left believe that support for multi-culturalism should not trump upholding basic values like women's rights.

In some European cities the mosques are seen as "symbols of non-assimilation". It was pointed out in Cologne that much of the space would be used for social activities.
Children would go there after school rather than playing with others and learning to live and enjoy other traditions.

Some of these concerns are summed up in the views of the new president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. Over Turkey joining the EU, he said "the universal values which are in force in Europe and which are fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey".

There are choices here for all communities. One Swiss paper this morning said that the choice was to cling to a "traditional and nationalist" society or to embrace a "modern and international" approach.

For the Muslim communities there are other choices. They can assert their own identity and largely live within their own culture, or they can consciously integrate into the countries they join.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:57am on 30 Nov 2009, Joepublic wrote:

    "It is prompting a debate, sometimes hidden, about where European societies are heading."

    Yes, you are spot on - this used to be something that we could not discuss for fear of being racist, but I've been amazed by how many people this year have come out and expressed their concern - someone brought this issue up in our local pub and it was clear that the feeling was unanimous - people are feeling threatened, or at least feel their culture is now being threatened.

    I have been amazed how many people watched the BNP/Question time program and were relieved to see an MP who had the nerve to talk openly about this issue. It seem that it made the other look like a bunch of careerists whimps.


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  • 2. At 11:12am on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    Imagine an idyllic Swiss village, surrounded by the glorious Alps, in which its people have lived and have had their ways for hundreds of generations.

    Then imagine a minaret in the centre of it.

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  • 3. At 11:28am on 30 Nov 2009, jules_london wrote:

    I'll say it; too many are here. They are a growing threat; why is it that I cannot have my own country anymore? We are just manipulated by politicians for their agendas.

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  • 4. At 11:33am on 30 Nov 2009, olddorsetred wrote:

    If minarets are in some way dangerous or threatening, how are they different from church spires. Both serve exactly the same function: connecting with God/Allah (the same Abrahamic God as it happens).
    Perhaps we should examine whether the Christian phrase "the church militant" and the hymn "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war" are not in some way threatening to believers in other faiths.

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  • 5. At 11:38am on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    Was the Swiss guy that tried last week to fly across to Morocco (and failed) a fanatic terrorist trying to escape Swiss oppression using a minaret rocket (as shown in the posters) to propel him?

    Well all jocks aside the moment that all religious leader (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu, etc.) stop telling people how to live, dress, behave, think etc. it will be a good day for the world. And if a Christian or Muslim beleives they failed to communicate directly with god because their communication link to god via a minaret or a bell tower was disconnected I suggest they check for other technical faults!

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  • 6. At 11:56am on 30 Nov 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    I think that it is an accepted norm around the world that local people have a right to establish what is architecturally acceptable in their communities and what isn't. Normally this is not a political issue. If the Swiss want their cities, towns, and villages to look like they have for hundreds of years that is their right whether the building that is rejected is a glass box skyscraper or an Islamic style mosque. To the degree that the rejected building is asserted to represent or demonstrate a particular religion alien to their mainstream culture that they find offensive, they have an even more compelling reason to reject it. If Moslems can't find their god in an ordinary building that is locally acceptable, what kind of god is he anyway?

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  • 7. At 12:24pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 8. At 12:26pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Sorry to disagree Mr Hewitt, however your article like almost all of the intellectual elite at Media and Government level across the British Isles and Europe is wholly missing the point.

    Europeans/British from North to South via East and West who find their origins in the Judao-Christian Culture have had just about enough of being told by their supposed political betters and social theorists that 'multi-culturalism' is the future.
    It is a social-cultural-religious experiment perpetrated on the European region that has run for the last 30+ years and the Citizens are stating unequivocally that enough is enough - - experiment over.

    It is one thing to import additional people of all colours, creed and tongues to assist in the successful development of the most prosperous region on earth - - quite another to then in the name of Human Rights allow the indigenous culture-heritage-history to be over-ridden by the newcomers - - when the very reason the newcomers came is because their living experience within their own regions of the earth was usually entirely below European standards and often wretchedly so.

    I asked on another of your Blog articles and do so again: Can any one explain how it is thought sensible that people who clearly left their own lands for a better life in the European lands should then think it is politically correct or economically sensible to try to impose on Europe the very conditions they fled from in their less well-off lands?

    Europe is a success because it does not follow the tenets of Islam, Bhuddism, Judaism, or even Christianity - - Europe is so proserous precisely because it has not been bound by Medieval Faith and the constraining philosophy of some Almighty being foremost in People's mind and behaviour.
    Basically, Europeans emerged from the Renaissance era with the firm idea that Humans not Divinity would set their course for good or ill: A sort of 'thanks for your concern but our Souls are no longer your remit.'

    I have no objection to anyone who wishes to have and express a Faith: Just so long as their Faith has nothing to do with the Philosophical-Political policies of how the Nation I reside in is Governed. Faith is for the Church, Synagogue, Mosque etc. I.e. a Personal relationship between them and their God/Allah/Almighty/Messiah etc.
    The moment People of Faith start trying whether intentionally or by default to interfere and instruct the State or supra-National entity and the ordinary Citizens within them on how it/they should conduct affairs there is a threat to social order and good Governance.

    Which brings us back to Minarets and the Islamic Faith: All Muslims are enjoined through the 'Shahada' (i.e. concept of God/Allah) that, "There is no God, but God" and "No divinity but the (one) Divinity."
    The revealed Scripture of Islam, the Qur'an is a vast commentary of how each and every Person should conduct their lives in relation to this God's 'Word' and his Prophet Muhammad's 'Teaching'.
    There is no adjudication, no half-way house, no alternative, no in-the-light-of-circumstance deviation: It is the way of Islam (literally, 'Submission to God') or nothing at all!
    The Muslim's Shahada makes it abundantly clear there can be no power, force or agency in the heavens or on earth which is independent of God. Everything that exists - - everything that happens - - is as a result of God/Allah: 'His' control is absolute.

    There is no dispute - debate - delegation of authority/power: It is Islam first and last.

    With such an appalling (and I do mean that very pejoratively) denial of any right to another version of Life and the utter lack of Free-will is it any wonder there is a clash of 'civilisations-cultures' as the Muslim Faithful have undertaken their journeys across an altogether more liberal and often faithless 'west'!?
    The imagery and construct of a 'Caliphate' (a supra-Islamic world) is not some abstract: It is the Command of Islam's God - - and the faithful Muslim has no option but to obey and work towards its establishment.

    Minarets are just a minor, but distinctly visible and audible expression and representation of an intention to dominate.
    There is nothing undemocratic or illogical about the majority Swiss expression through the Ballot box that they reject this Faith-based intrusion into the fundamental roots of their lifestyle. If the EU Nations were ever given the opportunity they too would reveal their innate understanding that their particular way of life is under clear and distinct danger from an external force that sees only weakness to be exploited in the 'liberalism' around it.
    The elite ruling establishment of practically the whole of Europe-British Isles region is wholly out of touch with how their Citizens feel on this matter. No surprise as it is a very long time since any Political Leadership in this region gave any real 'Democratic' interest, respect or concern to the Electorate's wishes.

    Unfortunately Mr Hewitt, you are in error when you close with what you propose as the options for the Muslim community within the region: "..they can consciously integrate into the countries they join," is simply not available to them - - their Faith forbids it - - it is the former choice alone that the faithful must follow, "..assert their own identity.." And that way lies imponderable and immeasurable conflict with the non-Islamic Societies around them.

    In this one and only instance I have to admit 'subjugation' by the European Union is eminently preferable to 'subjugation' by Islam.

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  • 9. At 12:49pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    #8

    Your last sentance did make me laugh :)))))) I thought I'll would not live long enough to see something like that written by you :)))

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  • 10. At 12:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    You sound like a scared old man. Scared of the EU and Commission 'bureaucrats', scared of muslims and their minarets, what's next?

    Re "I asked on another of your Blog articles and do so again: Can any one explain how it is thought sensible that people who clearly left their own lands for a better life in the European lands should then think it is politically correct or economically sensible to try to impose on Europe the very conditions they fled from in their less well-off lands?"

    Building a mosque with a minaret has nothing to do with imposing anything on Europe. What is imposed?

    It does have to do with exercising a right that European states have bound themselves by. The freedom of religion. This also includes the profession of a religion, including building a proper place of worship.

    The ECHR does not say "the freedom to profess a christian religion". So it's a duty of European states to respect those freedoms enshrined in the ECHR.

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  • 11. At 1:16pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    I refer to #9 Comment in EU Back to the Future Blog article.

    I will take no lectures from your sort on anything.

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  • 12. At 1:21pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    #10

    Building a mosque with a minaret, building a church with a bell tower, building a church with golden dome, building a temple with a golden roof, etc. has everything to do with imposing ones view over others. If it didn't impose anything and it was meaningless then they would not bother to build one. Advertising via a church, mosque, temple, mass media billboards, etc. are all there because they impose their message and therefore their views to the public.

    The freedom of religion does mean exactly that "freedom of religion" where is in your opinion a contadiction between one person believing whatever he/she wants a not having a minaret to look at? What about the people the people that are not religious I don't see them going around putting building approval application together to build tall structures to advertise their beliefs. So lets keep things into prespective, anyone can believe and worship whatever "fantacy" they want just don't build tall structures to advertise the fact, respect your fellow non believers!

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  • 13. At 1:22pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Lol

    Of course you won't take lectures. Any excuse is good to keep spouting nonsense isn't it? ;)

    Not that your comment on this article was nonsense. It probably just won't stand the legal scrutiny by the Court in Strassbourg.

    Switserland will probably be condamned!

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  • 14. At 1:27pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    ChrisArta

    Re my #8 and your #9

    That is the point isn't it?

    We only live once.

    I only ever ask on these debates for the Right and Responsibility to choose.

    As threnodio_II, you and others occasionally point out at least the EU is a work in progress so there is a little hope for the likes of me.
    Why would anyone bother breathing under the alternative we are discussing here.

    As another on here ("scared old man"! Truly, does this fellow never learn anything about respect for another?) and others in previous debates have already so amply demonstrated by their contributions: They know nothing about a 'liberal democracy' and everything about Law and Order.

    I will use the same phrase as I did when I wrote on this topic some days ago:
    'Law is needed for order in a good society, but the orderly, good society is much more than laws.'

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  • 15. At 1:27pm on 30 Nov 2009, Huaimek wrote:

    #8
    Cool_Brush_Work says it precisely ! It is not right that primitive peoples seeking a better life , should come to Europe and give their host country an overlaying mantle of their ancient religion dominated culture . Europeans are restained from offending muslims , but muslims may offend us all they like .

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  • 16. At 1:30pm on 30 Nov 2009, phil4blog wrote:

    How come the politicians of today and the others in the name of Human Rights and the universal values does not see it to be threatening? No one (the majority in that sense) is not against Muslims or any other religion or culture for that matter. But if this goes on, no one (foreign land) will support these communities. Ofcourse the politicians and even the religious institutions will support them, but the people of the land will not.
    Just a line from the news that appeared in many of the newsgroups.
    "There had been warnings of economic damage or even a backlash."
    What? Did I read it correct? Does the Muslims constitute 30-40% of Swiss population? Do they (Muslims who live in Swiss) or their businesses contribute to 20-30% of the country's economy or the GDP. Or was/is Swiss a land of Muslims? But then why on earth would there be even an economic damage or a backlash (violenced or non-violence based attacks). Yes they are expected from the Muslim countries. Is that justified?
    What if in these Muslim countries such a unanimous voters' decision was reached not to build a Temple or a Church or any other place of worship for the minorities who live and work in the country? How many would have rasied their Human rights voice? Most of all how many news channels would have reported that? If there was an equal rights for all religions and male/female in their own backyard then you can very well talk about it in the country where you have moved to live. Why don't they do it in Russia or China or even Australia now? Having said that, this does not mean Europe/Swiss is biased or racist land. It's just the time that the people of the countries served a reminder to the rest of the world this is our country. The land does not have any problem with anyone who lives (legally) with them, until they do not turn as a problem.
    Just because you work in a company/organisation, you do not become the owner or a share holder of the organisation. At the same time if you are not given the job because of colour/religion/sex or if you are illtreated and abused for the same reason then that is racism and denial of human rights. The employer can not/do not force you to adhere to their culture or religion or lifestyle. But it has to be understood that your's is not the only culture that exists in the world. It's hightime we learn to repsect the culture at workplace.
    Europe respects every human being irrespective of their colour, race, sex or culture and that is why you see 7% Muslim population even in a country like Switzerland. There is nothing wrong at what has just happened, instead I for one marvel at the way the political system of Switzerland works - where in the democracy is still for the people, by the people and of the people.

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  • 17. At 1:30pm on 30 Nov 2009, Johan_Heuvel wrote:

    The freedom of religion pretext has al too long been used to gloss over the real issues here.

    The EU nation states cannot absorb the amount of totaly alien newcommers that came the last 30 years.

    The neighbourhoods are overwelmed.

    Were previously integration was smooth it has now grinded to a halt.

    Islamic laws, as Christian laws, are in conflict with all other basic freedoms of the other members of society.

    We have seen a resurgents in the Netherlands of discrimination against gays (men and female), jews, filmmakers, writers, and other people primarily by muslims based on the islam or their prejudices stemming from the goath herding villages their grandparents came from.

    This is what is not acceptable.

    The minarettes are a minor thing compared to what is happening to other members of our societies which are not protected by "the freedom of religion" dogma.

    Our society has lost its anker points.

    This is what the so called "socialists" or labour parties have been missing happening in the neighbourhoods. Since it does not happen in the villa areas these salon-socialists live. Talking left, filling right.

    I'm sorry but multi-culti has failed completely. Time we went back to what has been proven to work.

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  • 18. At 1:31pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @ MarcusAureliusII

    Since your name is one of a Roman Emperor, I commented on your comment #6 in Latin, which the moderators didn't approve of. I will therefore state it again, in English:

    "I like your comment"

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  • 19. At 1:47pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    Cool_Brush_Work comment #8 clearly states everything that made the Swiss vote yes. He explained the reasons why any too prominent religious structure that is not part of the local culture and traditions is out of place in a modern secular European democracy. And is he racist because he said it? No. This is the problem, however. The institutions that we created and are supposed to protect ourselves, such as our governments, or at last, the ECHR, have started to work against the will of the majority. Think about the recent decision to ban crucifixes in Italy because an immigrant complained (although the Italian government said it will ignore the ruling) and then think about any "native" complaining about a plan to build a mosque/minaret in his/her town in the Alps being branded a racist or zealot. It is unbelievable.

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  • 20. At 1:48pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "As another on here ("scared old man"! Truly, does this fellow never learn anything about respect for another?) and others in previous debates have already so amply demonstrated by their contributions: They know nothing about a 'liberal democracy' and everything about Law and Order."

    The thing is, my friend, I am not easily offended so I tend to use these terms "scared old man" quite ignorant of the fact that others might be offended.

    But now you say I know nothing about 'liberal democracy'. This isn't really the case as I have studied it in different academic fields. Now if I would be as easily offended as you, I'd take your remark as an insult. Luckily I don't.

    Here's some liberal democracy for you: liberal democracy entails respect for human rights, as enshrined also in the ECHR. The measure by Switserland is very dubious from this point of view and there is quite a big chance that Switserland will be condemned by the Court!

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  • 21. At 2:10pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    #20

    I don't care one way or another if Switzerland will get condemned by the ECHR court (even if it does what difference will it make?). But why will it get condemned? I don't get it what have they done wrong? I'm like I want facts more than emotional arguments, so give us some facts rather than just a view.

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  • 22. At 2:15pm on 30 Nov 2009, the_fatcat wrote:

    A decisive, democratic decision from a cultured, educated and peaceful nation.

    Let's see what the global response from "the religion of peace" is.

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  • 23. At 2:21pm on 30 Nov 2009, kaybraes wrote:

    Do the native people of Switzerland not have a right to decide what happens in their own land? If they see the spread of Islam as a threat to their way of life then it is up to them. Islam has, since the tenth century pursued a policy of European domination, and only the Christian knights stopped this from happening. After Lepanto in the 16th century the military power of Islam was negated and has never recovered, now however it's influence is again spreading inexorably through Europe and whether justified or not, it brings fear of change and the threat of Islamic dominance may well lead to the unthinkable just as it did in the Balkans thirty years ago.Civilisation is a thin veneer which is all too easily breached and those people who think integration of opposites is possible may well be very wrong.

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  • 24. At 2:32pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "I don't care one way or another if Switzerland will get condemned by the ECHR court (even if it does what difference will it make?). But why will it get condemned? I don't get it what have they done wrong? I'm like I want facts more than emotional arguments, so give us some facts rather than just a view."

    Because there is the freedom of religion, which includes the freedom to profess a religion. You could argue that muslims profess their religion in a mosque which comes with minarets.

    Of course you could also argue that minarets are not indespensable to professing the muslim faith. A mosque can be a mosque without having a minaret right?

    The real problem for Switserland perhaps is the prohibition of discrimination: Equal situations deserve equal treatment, different situations deserve different treatment. It's quite obvious that muslims don't get equal treatment (they can't build a minaret on their mosque, but christians can build a tower on their church). Therefore Switserland shall have to demonstrate that there is a legal difference between minarets/churchtowers without breaching the freedom of religion.

    Do you know a legal difference? I can't come up with much...

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  • 25. At 2:33pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    ChrisArta, Johan-Heuvel and others..

    It is gratifying to read that for once we have common ground.

    The whole point of the European Court of Human Rights is to protect the Individual Citizen from abuses of power and excessive interference in their daily lives.

    What could be more of an Individual 'right' than a secret Ballot box vote in favour of 1 regulation pertaining to the distinctive cultural make-up of the Nation in which those Citizens reside?
    What could possibly be a more gross abuse of power against and excessive intrusion on the lives of those Individual Citizens than a supra-National Court ruling that secret Ballot box vote illegal and therefore that 'Democracy' must not prevail?

    I submit anyone in favour of the latter is Un-Democratic in outlook and a supporter of Anti-Democratic practises no Free-thinking Society should ever entertain as being an expression of legitimate Human Rights.

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  • 26. At 2:46pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "What could possibly be a more gross abuse of power against and excessive intrusion on the lives of those Individual Citizens than a supra-National Court ruling that secret Ballot box vote illegal and therefore that 'Democracy' must not prevail?

    I submit anyone in favour of the latter is Un-Democratic in outlook and a supporter of Anti-Democratic practises no Free-thinking Society should ever entertain as being an expression of legitimate Human Rights."

    You do know that if a secret ballot box vote would have been held in the '60s in the southern states of the USA, seggregation between whites and blacks would have been an official state policy. Would you support such a decision, just because it was achieved through 'democratic' means?

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  • 27. At 2:55pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    #24

    I will very strongly argue that anyone in Switzerland can be a Moslem without the need of a minaret, therefore they have "freedom of religion".

    After this point you move your argument to building approvals and in my view building approvals have nothing to do with "freedom of religion".

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  • 28. At 3:03pm on 30 Nov 2009, CComment wrote:

    It's striking how the chattering class liberal elite are full of breathless indignation when the Swiss exercise their democratic right to run their own country and yet say nothing when some Islamic fundamentalists persecute non-Muslims and threaten violence. Caledonian Comment

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  • 29. At 3:10pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "After this point you move your argument to building approvals and in my view building approvals have nothing to do with "freedom of religion"."

    It's not 'my argument', it's application of non-discrimination theory.

    A bit like the ban on crucifices (cf. Italian case before the ECHR) wasn't about 'interior decorating' the ban on minarets isn't about building approvals.

    How do you differentiate a church tower from a minaret in legal terms in your building approval regulation?

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  • 30. At 3:17pm on 30 Nov 2009, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    Leaving aside all hyperbole, maybe the Swiss don't want a voice bellowing a call to prayer five times a day, and that's it?

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  • 31. At 3:29pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    #29

    I'd be happy if they banned church towers and temple towers, etc. But from an argument point of view it comes down to local council building approval laws, nothing to do with "freedom of religion". What one is allowed to build on a plot of land the townplanner and some council members look at it and tell the people if is allowed to be build or not. what makes you think there in a difference between church and Mosque? I'm sure a local council would also reject a minaret on a church.

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  • 32. At 3:38pm on 30 Nov 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    Me-rijn @24,

    I think you have a point about the ban on minarets being discriminatory against a certain group of society. The whole story about the referendum only serves to prove how unreliable referenda are when it comes to taking important decision. The general public is very likely to vote for something based on their perception of the subject, without regard to fundamental laws and rights. If a society as a whole shows negative or positive attitude towards certain issues, the results from any referendum on the issue will closely to reflect that attitude. In some circumstances that might turn out to be OK, in others- not so. Example- imaginary referendum on gay rights in Poland.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6596829.stm
    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/02/14/poland-official-homophobia-threatens-human-rights

    However, I think the referendum in Switzerland and its results should be taken into the light of the current ‘clash of civilisations’ in Europe. It is naïve to think that a ban on the building of minarets in Switzerland will somehow stop the ‘islamisation of Europe’. What this ban (and the preceding referendum) actually serves for is a as a sort of test of the intercommunity relations. It has already tested the ‘willingness’ of the Swiss to accept different way of life of the Muslims in Switzerland. It will also test the often-declared willingness of the Muslims to subscribe to the way of life of the Europeans. A minaret is not strictly required for a mosque and any ban on building minarets would not in effect impede the Muslims in practicing their religion. Now, if the Muslims are truly integrated in the Swiss society, I believe they would understand the unwillingness of the non-Muslims to have a very visible (and audible!) non-necessity build in their cities. However, if there are ‘warnings of economic damage or even a backlash’ and an Imam steps forward calling for a global ‘day of anger’, then the test would have shown the opposite of their declarations.

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  • 33. At 3:44pm on 30 Nov 2009, Mark wrote:

    I'm sure they'll just hold more referendums until they get the desired result.

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  • 34. At 3:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, EuroSider wrote:

    Why should any religion have a dominance over another? Surely the indication of a civilised society is religious tolerance.
    Why is it that a religion comes as a package with your parentage and the country you were born in?
    If religions are universal then surely they can be practiced around the world.
    No country has a manopoly on religious beliefs.
    Or perhaps this is the Christian religion once again struggling to hang on to power?

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  • 35. At 4:04pm on 30 Nov 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    With all this talk about religious freedom, feminism and all the other politically correct claptrap we a regaled with these days, has it not occurred to anyone that the Swiss simply don't want their landscape cluttered up with pointy towers?

    I have an idea. Why not make 'nuclear power optionism' a new religion. Then people can build nuclear power plants to the glory of their god without the inconvenience of planning applications and public enquiries.

    For heavens sake, this is an environmental and planning issue and allowing the politically correct to hijack it for their own agenda purposes is caving in to them.

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  • 36. At 4:12pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Of course neither I nor anyone else on here, no matter how educated, intellectually gifted, politically astute and claiming superiority of rational thought processes could possibly know the outcome of referenda on 'slavery' in the 1860s or 'segregation' in the 1960s!

    It is incredible to read the massive assumptions of, one could presume, 'divine' guidance that allows some contributors to claim to "know" what would or would not be the result of a secret Ballot box Referendum!

    We need only look at Switzerland's referendum result on Minarets to actually become aware that no one 'knows' the result until the last vote has been counted.

    It is called the 'democratic' process, but I guess that subtlety eludes some who claim knowledge of Citizen Voter intentions when the actual result proves contrary to their divine inspiration!

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  • 37. At 4:14pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    me_rjin is right. The proposed law (it still has to be drafted and set down in actual legislation) is a direct and deliberate piece of discrimination based upon religion. It is absurd to talk about it being concerned only with architecture.

    However, he is also completely wrong to presume that the ECHR is the correct and proper authority to make judgement on the legality of the law.

    The ECHR is not an authority on law in Switzerland, nor even in the EU. Until recently, (Nice, I believe) the ECJ flat out rejected the judgements of the ECHR, and refused arguments made in the ECJ that were based on rulings in the ECHR.

    Now the situation is that the ECJ will "take into account" the judgements of the ECHR, but it still does not yield the power of precedent to that court. In other words, in the past the EU has rejected the right of the ECHR to exist at all, whereas now they say publicly that it is a good thing. But the ECJ is not bound to follow the law of the ECHR.

    It is a bit like the 1 million signatures on the petition to the Commission. In theory, this gives citizens the "right" to make changes. In practice, the power to refuse to do so resides with the commission. So, in effect, absolutely nothing changes. There is no change in power. The same people still have the same powers. Previously, folks could put a petition with 1 million signatures to the commission, and the commission could do nothing and explain why it thought the idea was bad. Nothing changed. It is the same with the ECHR. Previously, the ECHR could (and did) make rulings that were contrary to the rulings of the ECJ. The ECj was not legally bound to alter its decision. That still applies.

    What changed, with regard to human rights, was the lip service paid to them by the institutions of the EU. The power of the ECJ did not suddenly alter, becoming subordinate to the ECHR as a source of law.

    I have read numerous case concerning human rights from the ECJ (cue me_rijn squealing for a detailed list of them). They follow a predictable pattern.

    The ECJ now "recognizes" the argument which is based on human rights. This is itself a huge step forward: until the ECJ's power was rejected by the german courts for a lack of competence in human rights law, the ECJ would simply reject any argument based on human rights without considering it. The ECJ was clear as day on this point. It just wasn't interested in human rights. After it's power to make binding law was questioned be german and other member state constitutional courts, it began"recognizing" human rights arguments. All of a sudden, the ECJ felt that human rights had ALWAYS been part of the EU. Since the very beginning, you understand.

    So now the ECJ recognizes human rights before it ignores them. The way it deals with human rights cases is very, very predictable. It looks at the commercial points of law, and at the human rights point of law. Then it says "We recognize that there are human rights arguments here, but we find that the trade law is more important in this case."

    And it says that every single time. Like clockwork.

    The issue is essentially power. The ECJ desires power, and always has done. It adopted lip service to human rights because it had to in order to have its rulings accepted in member state courts. But it has never accepted the right of the ECHR to make good law. It has never agreed to change its judgements if the ECHR found that they contravened human rights law.

    This is why I find me_rijns comments about the legal authority of the ECHR over Switzerland so perverse. The ECHR is not even considered a valid source of law by the ECJ. So why should Switzerland care what it says?

    And furthermore, there are many laws which constitute religious discrimination within the EU. In the UK, there is the Act of Settlement, which states that only Anglicans, and NOT catholics, can become head of state in the UK.

    Cue the anglophiles saying "come come, the UK is actually a perfect and democratic place where only wonderful democratic laws are actually put into practice".

    What will happen now in Switzerland is that the government will go to its lawyers and probably to the high court and try to find a way to match the demands of the popular vote with the obligations of Switzerland to international treaties.

    It is the high court of Switzerland which will decide whether the law is possible under the Swiss constitution, NOT the ECHR, and NOT the ECJ.

    If the ECJ has a problem with that ruling, it can follow the correct channels to re-negotiate the bi-lateral treaty with Switzerland.

    These presumptions of me_rijns that EU law has some right of comment on Swiss law just show how pervasive the madness has become. Make no mistake, the rule of law in Europe is all about power, and those who claim to seek uniform laws are only interested in increased power.

    The Swiss system of direct democracy is a direct challenge to the absolute power of the ECJ and the commission. I would be surprised if those institutions did not increase their attacks upon the Swiss for daring to listen to the population.

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  • 38. At 4:23pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @At 3:29pm on 30 Nov 2009, ChrisArta wrote:

    Re "I'd be happy if they banned church towers and temple towers, etc. But from an argument point of view it comes down to local council building approval laws, nothing to do with "freedom of religion". What one is allowed to build on a plot of land the townplanner and some council members look at it and tell the people if is allowed to be build or not. what makes you think there in a difference between church and Mosque? I'm sure a local council would also reject a minaret on a church"

    and

    @35. At 4:04pm on 30 Nov 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    "With all this talk about religious freedom, feminism and all the other politically correct claptrap we a regaled with these days, has it not occurred to anyone that the Swiss simply don't want their landscape cluttered up with pointy towers?

    I have an idea. Why not make 'nuclear power optionism' a new religion. Then people can build nuclear power plants to the glory of their god without the inconvenience of planning applications and public enquiries.

    For heavens sake, this is an environmental and planning issue and allowing the politically correct to hijack it for their own agenda purposes is caving in to them."



    I see you are not a jurists. Let me help you on the way:

    If it was merely a matter of environmental and town planning the prescription could indeed have been "no pointy towers" as threnodio suggests. However if it were a mere townplanning issue, it would not be written in the Swiss Constitution (generally states don't include townplanning in their constitutions).

    What's more important to the legal scrutiny of the ECHR is that the legal definition will not be "no pointy towers". If it were "no pointy towers" you could argue that this prohibition is neutral and non discriminating. But if the Swiss were to ban "pointy towers" they would also ban church towers, TV/communication towers etc. It's obvious however that the Swiss will only target minarets.

    It is very hard to come up with a neutral definition that includes minarets and excludes church towers, tv-communication towers etc.

    You need this neutral definition, otherwise you are discriminating.

    If you are discriminating, you don't get automatically condemned if you (in this case switserland) can show that in fact you don't discriminate because the case at hand is not equal but distinct from other situations.

    So the swiss will have to show that Minarets are fundamentally different from church towers/tv towers etc.

    So tell me how would you argument this?

    It's quite hard, therefore the swiss will face trouble before the ECHR.

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  • 39. At 4:36pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Eurosider

    Re #34

    Of course no "country has a monopoly on religion".

    The point being no religion has a right to monopolise any Country.

    This is not about Christianity, Islam, Bhuddism etc.

    It is about the democratic choice made by a majority of Citizens in their Country: That followers of Islam will undoubtedly be disappointed by the decision is undeniable.
    However, it will be interesting to see how the Islamic World does respond.

    If it's the flag/effigy-burning, street demonstration hysteria of recent years or an economic/political squeeze on Switzerland by Islamic nations then it will be yet another example of how little Islam has in common with the Democratic principles of the modern, liberal Society in which so many Muslims have chosen to live.
    Of course it will be the 'democratic' right of Muslim led nations to demonstrate and to apply sanctions, but none of that removes the right of the Swiss to determine the social-cultural fabric of their own Nation.

    Frankly, I am surprised as anyone by the Swiss Referendum result: I did not think there were that many sensible Citizens living in Switzerland. I apologise to and congratulate the Swiss people on their eminent commonsense and social responsibility. My hope is (but strongly doubt) it will be a landmark for more of the same elsewhere in the European region.

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  • 40. At 4:41pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mahros wrote:
    "I'm sure they'll just hold more referendums until they get the desired result."

    That is not how things are done here. "They", meaning the government, do not set the agenda for referenda.

    Sure, there might be another vote on the issue, but only if the population want one. And even then, there is a long wait before the issue can go back to the popular vote (four years, i think. this time lag is a rule that stops heated popular topics guiding the development of law in the shorter term).

    "They", meaning the elite few who control the legislative agenda, do not have any say in the matter.

    I realize you were making a black joke about Europe, but it is actually a serious topic of discussion in Switzerland. People here are very, very serious about their political rights. They see what is happening in Europe, and they fear it. If "they" tried to take away the rights of the people and started to take control of the power in the land, you can be your fur that there would be widespread rioting and civil unrest.

    If you want to become hated in Switzerland, the best way to go about it is to start telling everyone what to do, and that the system of direct democracy is a big waste of time that should be repealed.

    This is the fundamental difference between Swiss society and European society. The Swiss are active and committed members of their political landscape. They care deeply about their role in the law making process.

    In Europe, the vast majority of people are disinterested spectators who accept that they are told what to do by people they have never met.

    The difference is chalk and cheese, and this is why I believe that there is nothing special about the Swiss which allows them to practice direct democracy. Rather, it is precisely the practice of direct democracy which makes the Swiss so special. When people tell me "Oh, that system of government is fine for Switzerland, but it could never work here. he people are not ready for it.", what they are saying is that there is something special about the swiss people.

    My view is that everyone on earth is ready for direct democracy, and they will not start behaving like democrats who have a stake in their own society until they live under a system of law and political rights which allows their potential as a thinking, caring human being to grow and flourish.

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  • 41. At 4:42pm on 30 Nov 2009, Honestly_speaking wrote:

    As an Ex-Muslim, and Atheist for long time, I can only set back and laugh at both sides, the Christians and Muslims fighting each other with all available means that they could lay their hands on.

    I am seriously laughing at the Swiss Paranoia of the HARMLESS Minarets. When I heard the news first, I thought they were talking about some BANANA republic!!

    Way to go Swiss cheese people. You have only enforced and stood by your brethrens...IN SAUDI ARABIA!!!

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  • 42. At 4:46pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "It is the high court of Switzerland which will decide whether the law is possible under the Swiss constitution, NOT the ECHR, and NOT the ECJ."

    You seem to misunderstand the function of these courts. The ECHR (or the ECJ) couldn't care a bit about what a constitution says. The ECHR looks at what is possible (or necessary) under the ECHR, the ECJ does the same for the EC/EU treaties.

    One document (constitution/treaty/etc) = one supreme court.

    Re "These presumptions of me_rijns that EU law has some right of comment on Swiss law just show how pervasive the madness has become. Make no mistake, the rule of law in Europe is all about power, and those who claim to seek uniform laws are only interested in increased power."

    I never spoke about EU law mate, I only spoke about the ECHR.

    The ECJ doesn't have jurisdiction as Switserland is not a member of the EU, so 75% of your comment is quite pointless as well.

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  • 43. At 4:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Of course neither I nor anyone else on here, no matter how educated, intellectually gifted, politically astute and claiming superiority of rational thought processes could possibly know the outcome of referenda on 'slavery' in the 1860s or 'segregation' in the 1960s!

    It is incredible to read the massive assumptions of, one could presume, 'divine' guidance that allows some contributors to claim to "know" what would or would not be the result of a secret Ballot box Referendum!

    We need only look at Switzerland's referendum result on Minarets to actually become aware that no one 'knows' the result until the last vote has been counted.

    It is called the 'democratic' process, but I guess that subtlety eludes some who claim knowledge of Citizen Voter intentions when the actual result proves contrary to their divine inspiration!"

    It's quite obvious such a referendum in the 1960's in SOUTH USA would result in a vote for segregation. But I understand you'd try anything from avoiding the question.

    So let's keep it hypothetical: IF the referendum would have been held and IF the outcome would have been pro segregation. Would you endorse it, simply because it a result of a democratic process?

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  • 44. At 5:27pm on 30 Nov 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ChrisArta, @5. :o). "One can't expect an answer to a prayer. If there were an answer, it wouldn't be prayer. But correspondence" :o))))

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  • 45. At 5:45pm on 30 Nov 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    #38 - Me_rijn

    There was intended to be a touch of irony - even humour - in my post but actually, it does raise issues and it does no harm to separate them. Despite what you say, there is a simple straight forward planning issue which would apply equally well to church steeples, industrial chimneys, tower blocks or anything else which distorts the landscape. My example may have been deliberately silly but let us take a serious one. The belief that we must seek to protect the environment by using renewable energy resources is sufficiently close to being an article of faith as to be considered a belief system. From that perspective, it might be possible to argue that erecting wind farm turbines or laying out large areas of solar panels is a matter of faith but there is no question that this will have an environmental impact just as a minaret or church tower will have.

    So the question is this. Does it make sense to have a blanket ban on a particular kind of structure throughout a country when its impact - if permitted - is local? This is where you start to encounter problems associated with direct democracy. Let us take the UK as an example since they do not have direct democracy. Imagine that there was a proposal for a mosque in one of the predominantly Muslim areas of, say, Birmingham. If your were to consult the people of the appropriate district, you would probably get a majority in favour of the minaret. Now ask the same question to all the people of the City and you will get a close call because many will believe that it is not a problem within a predominantly Muslim community but ask the whole of the West Midlands and they will reject it by a large margin on cultural rather than planning grounds.

    You see what I am getting at? In a very subtle way, by changing the scale of the electorate, you are slightly altering the question. Where are these minarets going to be? In Alpine resorts, little villages and so on? Of course not. They are going to be in the major urban centres and it is the inhabitants of those communities you should be asking. If you treat it purely as a planning issue, then you will be asking the right people because they are the ones who are directly affected. Ask the wider population and you will not get a logical answer. So there is, despite the enthusiasm of many posters, a problem with direct democracy and there is a problem with treating this question as something bigger than a planning issue.

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  • 46. At 5:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Hmm

    Some interesting points being raised.

    I was just wondering, 'hypothetically', you understand, if there had been 26 other Referendum held on the Lisbon Treaty and even only 4 or 5 (hypothetically) had voted against 'ratification' do you suppose there would be anyone who would be foolish enough to claim that the Lisbon Treaty was still endorsed by the Citizens?

    I suppose the short answer is 'hypothetcially' there would have a lot more 2nd referendums and 'hypothetically' LT may or may not have succeeded.

    Yes, yes, I know, it's a silly, incredibly pointless, completely unfounded and wholly unrealistic 'hypothetical' thing that bears no relation to reality at all!

    All the same, 'hypothetical' Election Results are such an easy euphamistic excuse for avoiding 'Democratic' values: In fact, why don't we do away with real Elections with real Citizens Voting and real Results of Ballots of the People and just go straight to the 'hypothetical' result that suits those who know so much more than the ordinary folk!?

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  • 47. At 6:05pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "So let's keep it hypothetical: IF the referendum would have been held and IF the outcome would have been pro segregation. Would you endorse it, simply because it a result of a democratic process?"

    There is a very good reason to keep questions like this hypothetical. That is because when you stop speaking hypothetically and start speaking of the facts on the ground, the fear of mob rule through direct democracy is shown to be an irrational fantasy.

    Switzerland has not only proven that direct democracy can exist without descending into the worst excesses of mob rule, it has also proven (if facts can displace hypothetical conjecture for a moment) that direct democracy actually promotes humane and decent behaviour by the society.

    Crime is almost non existent in Switzerland, and the penalties for crime are very far from draconian. Nearly all crime is perpetrated by foreigners who are new to the society. Medical standards are very high, and medical care is universal. Poverty is non existent. Switzerland simply doesn't have the pockets of incredible poverty common to other European states. War is non existent, as the country has been resolutely neutral for centuries.

    And, of course, multiple languages are spoken and multiple religions are allowed to practice, within strict limits of law.

    Those are the facts. That is how Switzerland is today. It didn't arrive there overnight, and along the way the country has seen its share of horror and turmoil. But if you want to talk about the facts of how the society is run, I don't know any other place on earth that is equal to Switzerland, in terms of human rights and quality of living standards generated by economic freedoms.

    So now let us turn to the hypothetical scenario, that of segregation in the USA.

    me_rijn suggests that segregation in the 60's would have been the policy of choice in the USA. But he limits his area of effect to SOUTH USA. Very wise.

    The reason me_rijn limits his hypothetical to the south is because he understands that this period saw the election of Lyndon Johhson, the first democrat from the south (texas) to ever be elected president. In short, the USA was ready for social change, and it elected not only a democrat who advocated civil rights, but also a southener. The USA was moving towards all sorts of tolerant ideas in the 60's.

    If we had taken a nationwide referenda in the 60's, segregation would have certainly failed.

    Now, it may or may not be true that it would have succeeded in the south (depsite LBJ being elected in texas).

    Let us assume that segregation would have succeeded. OK, then what?

    You see, this is the trouble with hypotheticals. They never end. One can look into the crystal ball and keep guessing, for as long as one wants.

    So me_rijn started this hypothetical, let me continue it.

    So segregation becomes a fact in the south. It is out in the open where everybody can see it. The south has direct democracy, and is a distinct political and economic entity from the north.

    So the north sees the hateful politics of the south, and it reacts. You have huge discussions of the fact of discrimination, and the public becomes educated about the evils of racism much faster than would otherwise have occurred. Economic sanctions and military threats are brought to bear against the south by the much stronger north. People living in the south are mocked and ridiculed by their northern neighbours and relatives. Black folks in the south sabotage the economy and make life unbearable for the hard core racists, because they are supported with finance and weapons from the north.

    In short, the South is forced to wear the fruits of its decision. Without a very short time, the people in the south reject the racist policies of their leaders or they become a economic basket case and pariah state. And through the process of direct democracy, they then repeal segregation.

    So that is one scenario.

    It is fantasy and conjecture, but that is more or less what happened to south africa.

    The grave problem with what me_rijn argues is simply that he confuses the process of government with the outcomes deemed acceptable by the society. This is, with respect, a childish mistake in reasoning.

    The error is evident when you simply turn the logic upon the governmental system favoured by me_rijn.

    According to his logic, grave tyrannies have and are conducted under the name of representative democracy. It is possible for entire nations to be wipe from the face of the earth by english speaking governments based on the westminster system. In fact, it has happened. Not only that, but the US system of government resulted in the use of nuclear weapons in war. Therefore, according to his preferred logic, the system of government in the USA will cause nuclear weapons to be used in war tomorrow.

    This causal link between a system of rule and the ethical standards of the society may exist, but it does not exist in the way me_rijn implies. Systems of rule can promote decency and ethics, and they can destroy them, but only over long periods of time.

    And it would be my argument that the Swiss system actually promotes ethics and decency over long periods, in contrast with the European system, which degrades ethics and decency in favour of a military industrial complex and authoritarian party rule.

    Now with regard to this particular case, my own position is that this law is merely a step in the right direction.

    I believe that all religious institutions in Switzerland should be barred from promoting their foolish and destructive fantasies, and that they ought to have what limited tax perks they still enjoy removed.

    I do not accept the coffee table wisdom of the elite which says that religion is important to society and should be treated as a fundamental human right.

    However, I am content to let the people of Switzerland make the law, because I don't think people like me, or any individual, should be setting themselves up as all knowing and all wise.

    I am content to see where this decision of the people takes us, because I have no faith in the world as it has been created by other systems of government.

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  • 48. At 6:05pm on 30 Nov 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    "2. At 11:12am on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    Imagine an idyllic Swiss village, surrounded by the glorious Alps, in which its people have lived and have had their ways for hundreds of generations.

    Then imagine a minaret in the centre of it."

    You remind me of my last trip to Switzerland.

    I visited Gruyères, where I took a walk on the main street, towards the high ground and behind a nice swiss cottage the monster appeared!

    It wasn't exactly a minaret, but it was as Alien as it could be. In fact, it was Alien's monster.

    Strangely, I haven't heard anyone complaining about siting Gieger's museum (Gieger being the artist that has designed the Alien monster).



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  • 49. At 6:11pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "All the same, 'hypothetical' Election Results are such an easy euphamistic excuse for avoiding 'Democratic' values: In fact, why don't we do away with real Elections with real Citizens Voting and real Results of Ballots of the People and just go straight to the 'hypothetical' result that suits those who know so much more than the ordinary folk!?"

    No need to invalidate a point by making it ridiculous.

    The main fundamental problem with your line of thinking can be summarized and simplified as such:

    The end doesn't always justify the means.
    and
    The means don't always justify the end.

    What you are saying in quite a fundamentalist way is that the means always justify the end.

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  • 50. At 6:27pm on 30 Nov 2009, EuroBrit wrote:

    RE: Post 37 -Democracythreat

    Democracythreat wrote

    "I have read numerous case concerning human rights from the ECJ (cue me_rijn squealing for a detailed list of them). They follow a predictable pattern.

    The ECJ now "recognizes" the argument which is based on human rights. This is itself a huge step forward: until the ECJ's power was rejected by the german courts for a lack of competence in human rights law, the ECJ would simply reject any argument based on human rights without considering it. The ECJ was clear as day on this point. It just wasn't interested in human rights. After it's power to make binding law was questioned be german and other member state constitutional courts, it began"recognizing" human rights arguments. All of a sudden, the ECJ felt that human rights had ALWAYS been part of the EU. Since the very beginning, you understand.

    So now the ECJ recognizes human rights before it ignores them. The way it deals with human rights cases is very, very predictable. It looks at the commercial points of law, and at the human rights point of law. Then it says "We recognize that there are human rights arguments here, but we find that the trade law is more important in this case."I think you have a few facts wrong there "democracythreat" maybe you confused the ECHR and ECJ:

    And it says that every single time. Like clockwork."


    Let me just straighten out some errors here.


    The Swiss are members of the Council of Europe and are bound by the Convention so Me_rijn is right about the ECfHR having jurisdiction. The ECJ has nothing to do with this because as Me-rijn explained the Swiss are not members of the EU. The ECHR is very much a valid source of international law in Europe.

    On the question of Human Rights and the EU.

    There was no reference to Human Rights in any of the EC/EU Treaties until the SEA (1986). Therefore the ECJ could not decide on human rights arguments without acting outside of its powers. The ECJ did however use any excuse it could to allow protection of 'fundamental rights' (as per the SEA).

    As the EU is not a state and therefore not party to the ECHR it could not follow those legal arguments. The ECJ has never "denied" its exisitence or right to exist at all. You may have been confused by Opinion 2/94 where the Commission and Member States wanted to join the EC/EU to the ECHR which the ECJ said would not be possible. The Opinion stated that:

    “No treaty provision confers on the Community institutions any general power to enact rules on human rights or to conclude international conventions in this field”.38

    Accession to the ECHR would:

    "… entail a substantial change in the present Community system for the protection of human rights in that it would entail the entry of the Community into a distinct international institutional system as well as integration of all the provisions of the Convention into the Community legal order."

    Basically the EU would have to become a state to have joined or the ECHR would have had to change its membership criteria.


    As for the list of cases that prove in fact YOU are spouting off nonesense - I'll provide you with one:

    Stauder vs City of Ulm (1969)
    Handelsgesselschaft (1970) - (ECJ recognised fundamental rights as general principles of EC law)
    Nold vs Commission (1973) - ECJ ruled that Member States has to respect fundamental rights in the implmenttation of EC law)
    Wachlau
    Rutili (1975) and ERT.
    Conegate
    Grogan
    X vs Commission (1994)
    Omega (1996)

    In cases like Conegate trade did trump morality but if you read the case you will understand why.

    The "Omega case" which I suggest you read - flat out contradicts your "ECJ trade wins - like clockwork" statement.

    The ECJ "power-hungry" theory was good in the 70s but nowadays its a bit old hat.




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  • 51. At 6:32pm on 30 Nov 2009, dimitrim wrote:

    Another important reason for this result is that all swiss parties (except one) rejected the debate on islam in Switzerland just as they have neglected the debate on immigration. And all they could think of to encourage voters to say "no" was the economic and image-linked consequences of the ban for Switzerland. Then there is the Kadhafi affair, the UBS scandal, during which the government didn't stand up to its responsibilities and went on its knees in front of bigger countries.

    All of this leads to a popular reaction and an affirmation of popular sovereignty.

    Even though the question of the minarets and the debate about islam are the more important issue, this adds some elements of context to the result of the vote.

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  • 52. At 6:34pm on 30 Nov 2009, Dave wrote:

    Well DONE Brave Switzerland !!!!! wish their where more like you around

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  • 53. At 6:42pm on 30 Nov 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    The result of the referendum in Switzerland is a disgrace and a democratic disaster. Not surprisingly protests are now arriving from all over the European continent.
    I expect the human rights court in Strasbourg to judge against it, and so Switzerland will have to change the decision.

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  • 54. At 6:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, AnonymousCalifornian wrote:

    What I found strange is that many of the opponents of the minaret-building supported the ban because they believed minarets would disrupt Swiss tradition and culture, and clash with the building style in Switzerland. If that were the case, couldn't minarets be built in the 'Swiss' style? And Christianity is not a tradition or a culture, although it has heavily influenced Western traditions and cultures.

    What I found annoying in the reporting on this issue was the recurring idea that opposition to Islam is just because of Islamic terrorism post-September 11 (or 11 September). Prior to September 11, many Americans - and I'm sure many Europeans as well - were pretty clueless about Islam and Islamic countries; and we probably still are.

    However, after September 11, we learned that many Islamic countries repress the rights of their women. We learned that most Islamic countries do not allow freedom of relgion; even supposedly moderate countries like Turkey and Malaysia would be the most religiously intolerant countries if they were Christian, and if people(s) are equal, there should be no double standards. People are considered Muslim at birth, and are not allowed to convert on penalty of death. Muslims expect to practice and share their religion in Western countries, but heavily restrict the practicing of non-Islamic faiths and ban proselytization in their own countries. Polls showed us that while mostly peaceful themselves, the majority of people in the Islamic world believed that terrorism (even against civilians) is acceptable in some cases.

    Reading between the lines, the BBC (which has tried to keep this topic out of the front pages more than it should - i.e. removing it from the front page relatively quickly, not listing many or all of the articles on the topic in the 'SEE ALSO' menu) has pointed out that Swiss officials fear unrest from their Muslim community after the vote. That in and of itself is telling. If a vote didn't go the way Christian fundamentalists in the United States would have liked, there still would not be fear of unrest.

    Apparently, Swiss Muslims are angry that Islam is being singled out, and that there is no ban against Christian, Jewish, Sikh, or other religions' symbols. I know this sounds harsh, but on a global level, maybe Islam has earned the right to be distinguished from other - largely much more peaceful - religions?

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  • 55. At 6:56pm on 30 Nov 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    *37. At 4:14pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:
    me_rjin is right. The proposed law (it still has to be drafted and set down in actual legislation) is a direct and deliberate piece of discrimination based upon religion. It is absurd to talk about it being concerned only with architecture.*

    Also,


    *47. At 6:05pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:
    Switzerland has not only proven that direct democracy can exist without descending into the worst excesses of mob rule, it has also proven (if facts can displace hypothetical conjecture for a moment) that direct democracy actually promotes humane and decent behaviour by the society.*

    ****************************************
    A remarkable example of self-contradiction! The result of direct democracy, which 'promotes humane and decent behavour by society' is a 'Deliberate discrimination based upon religion'!?

    Long live Swiss direct democracy!
    Pah!

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  • 56. At 6:57pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Eurobrit, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. me_rijn either, for that matter.

    You state:

    "The ECHR is very much a valid source of international law in Europe."

    and then two lines later you state:

    "As the EU is not a state and therefore not party to the ECHR it could not follow those legal arguments"

    The reason I refrained from listing a bunch of cases is not because I cannot. I beg you to consider the possibility that I can google some EU law as well as you can, if I do not trust my memory.

    I refrained from citing a list of case names because I am not that kind of lawyer. It is not my method of operation to sound like a lawyer. I try to make genuine arguments and sway people's thinking. Lists of cases do not assist me in this task, especially on internet forums.

    You might imagine that sounding lawyerish is an excellent substitute for making a reasonable case, but please don't presume it is all anyone aspires towards in the legal world.

    Now as for your final statement:

    "The ECJ "power-hungry" theory was good in the 70s but nowadays its a bit old hat."

    What does that mean?

    Seriously, what are you trying to sell, here?

    Not just to me, but to anyone who reads this blog?

    Are you seriously trying to suggest that an institution which was power hungry in the seventies has suddenly, or even gradually, become a respectable source of impartial legal advice, constrained by a constitution that places the power of law making outside the hands of judges?

    How?

    You see, this is why I strongly suggest you try less hard to sound like a lawyer, and try harder to think about what you are saying. You don;t do the ECJ any favours by pretending that it used to be bad but is now reformed. All that shows it that you are keenly aware that it has been increasing its power through judicial activism, and that you haven;t the wits to conceal that knowledge.

    If you were a real advocate, and you were really competent to defend the ECJ judiciary from accusations of judicial activism to further the power of the ECJ, then you would choose arguments that do not admit the fault in the seventies.

    For example, you might have made the argument that judicial activism is a fact of the European political landscape, and that the methods employed by the judiciary of the ECJ were no different, in substance, from the methods used by judges in many of the member states.

    At least that argument would have allowed you client some dignity. Instead, you admit the ECJ is guilty of grasping for power and judicial activism, and then ask us to believe that everything is different now, because the ECJ says so.

    I repeat, you would do well to spend less time collating your lists, and more time thinking about what it is you are trying to say.

    the debate concerns who holds the power to make law, and why. Spouting details at random will not progress it one jot.

    Me_rijn:
    "What you are saying in quite a fundamentalist way is that the means always justify the end."

    No, me_rijn, that is not what I am saying. I was refuting your suggestion that the means are responsible for the range of possible outcomes.

    You cannot cook turkey pie with only fish.

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  • 57. At 6:59pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    DemocracyThreat

    Re #47

    Well, I tried to follow your hypothetical scenario but as it was based on an error from its point of origin outside your own contribution it really did not fit with anything.

    The 'South' is such a relative term: Which hypothetical 'south' is it? The old Mason-Dixon Line south inc. Virginia because it certainly did not have the Civil Rights issues of further 'south'! Then there's the 'south' that includes a good deal of western USA inc. New Mexico and Nevada and southern California; none of which were hotbeds of civil unrest if only because the former slave population formed such a low density population? Then when we get to the central 'south' States like Kentucky-Missouri-Kansas-Colorado there's such a multi-cultural mix in some parts and almost none in others during the '60s that it is difficult to figure the % of balck and white folks!?

    No, I'm afraid, any presumption, hypothetical or whatever, about how the USofA 'South' would have voted in a Referendum on 'segregation' is so beyond any statistical analysis that I have to say only the most colossal arrogance and disdain for the Citizens' Free-will would allow someone to write on here that they 'know' it is, "quite obvious such a referendum... would result in a vote for segregation."

    Frankly, any contribution like that should be dismissed as purely idle, unsubstantiated conjecture.
    Indeed, were I as intolerant as some on here I would go so far as to say they were "spouting nonsense", but you know me, ever the gentleman so I will just hypothetically content myself with the observation one man's minaret is another man's burden.

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  • 58. At 7:24pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    People are now just hypothesizing without real end of the debate in sight. Fact is: The people has voted, the people is sovereign.

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  • 59. At 7:40pm on 30 Nov 2009, Frank Prins wrote:

    "One Swiss paper this morning said that the choice was to cling to a "traditional and nationalist" society or to embrace a "modern and international" approach."

    The Swiss writer sure showed his own feelings about the matter. Why not write:

    "... the choice was to embrace a "traditional and nationalist" society or to cling to a "modern and international" approach."

    Let's face it: most Western societies have at least a 100 year history of equal rights for women. As long as Islam "clings to" a belief system where women are valued less then men in just about every way, the presence of their religious institutions (i.e. minarets, mosques)in Western society will be opposed by the average person. What is truly baffling is that women's advocacy groups and female politicians aren't making more of a fuss about this. Aren't they concerned about the erosion of the rights they've fought so long and hard for?

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  • 60. At 7:46pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Eurobrit, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. me_rijn either, for that matter.

    You state:

    "The ECHR is very much a valid source of international law in Europe."

    and then two lines later you state:

    "As the EU is not a state and therefore not party to the ECHR it could not follow those legal arguments"

    The reason I refrained from listing a bunch of cases is not because I cannot. I beg you to consider the possibility that I can google some EU law as well as you can, if I do not trust my memory.
    I refrained from citing a list of case names because I am not that kind of lawyer. It is not my method of operation to sound like a lawyer. I try to make genuine arguments and sway people's thinking. Lists of cases do not assist me in this task, especially on internet forums."

    Actually Eurobrit does exactly what you should have done.

    1. The ECHR is relevant in this debate because Switserland is a party to the ECHR
    2. The ECJ is not relevant because switserland is not a party to the EC/EU treaties.

    If you make claims about the caselaw of the Court, your claims are unverifiable unless you give examples of cases. Lists of cases do help you in your task.

    If you would have thought more about your argument you would have realized that all your talk about the ECJ is quite pointless because the ECJ isn't competent for the simple fact that switserland isn't part of the EU. It would be like talking about the compatibility of Obama's healthcare reform with the caselaw of the ECJ.

    My statement ""What you are saying in quite a fundamentalist way is that the means always justify the end."" was directed towards CBW, sorry if I confused you with my successive comments.

    @57. At 6:59pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Well as you keep shying away from the real pertinent question. Let's ask the same question in general terms:

    Do you think that in decision making, the democratic means always justify the end?

    The logical answer would be yes, because that is what you have been going on about in your contributions. It's quite obvious however that the rule of law and 'democratic means' aren't the same and can be at odds.

    A simple yes or no will do.

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  • 61. At 7:54pm on 30 Nov 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    The Swiss and the British need to tell the ECJ and the ECHR to go and flog themselves.

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  • 62. At 7:55pm on 30 Nov 2009, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The separation of church and state is a Western idea and in historical terms a relatively recent one. The issue is really about immigration and the ways of the world. As societies become more distributive in their wealth, business and the wealthy look for cheap labor. These forces collude with government to allow more immigrants to provide cheap labor and larger profits. Eastern Europens, Arabs, Asians etc, all come seeking employment and apparently find some. For many years in history the Jewish populations isolated themselves to perserve their heritage and the result was discrimination and hostility. This has happened to many populations, both the Chinese and Japanese suffered such fates in the US. Majority socieities want the new-comers to adopt to their way of life and new-comers cling to their native traditions and religions. The one thing we know is that human beings have not learned how to get along. A building is just a building, it is people that commit acts of violence. It has always been odd to think that people who hate a country would locate there to profess their hatred, seems a bit hypocritical.

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  • 63. At 7:56pm on 30 Nov 2009, armagediontimes wrote:

    Maybe this article should have been entitled "The Fear of Democracy" Is it not fortunate that we are doing all in our power to free the world from the tyranny of democracy.

    No doubt all the people who have got it in for the Swiss are fresh back from an amiable and mature discussion with the Saudi Religious Police who have kindly agreed to stop executing proslytisers.

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  • 64. At 8:02pm on 30 Nov 2009, steamer wrote:

    The problem is we Swiss have gotton used to the rhetoric of foul Brussel salad. We have a strong constitution within the country and the decision regarding Minarettes is binding and no amount of pressure from ausland will revoke this without some considerable time lapse. Those wishing to stir an argument of religious discrimation though the EU parliament have got a very long wait til the wayright of the democratic vote expires.
    Brussels should be seen re-align it's policy to match individual countries PerSE and not seen as dictating. That's the issue. (same problems as UK has ?)
    I voted for the ban as we have a Germanic Romance upbringing and THATS the way we want to keep it.

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  • 65. At 8:14pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @61. At 7:54pm on 30 Nov 2009, SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    Re "The Swiss and the British need to tell the ECJ and the ECHR to go and flog themselves"

    Nothing like 'common sense' from the 'common man' eh?

    You are a laugh.

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  • 66. At 8:31pm on 30 Nov 2009, DiscoStu_d wrote:

    @56 "You cannot cook turkey pie with only fish."

    Let us hope not! I prefer my turkey pie fish-free. Otherwise the dog will be very busy!

    Certainly the Swiss citizens provided their voices. As usual in the 'pc' world the result was condemned by busybodies as it was not sufficiently 'fashionable' or progressive enough.

    Re the notion that this was about architectural aesthetics and nothing more, I find that a bit disingenuous. A national referendum prohibiting certain building styles was meant as a big 'F.Y.' to muslims. And perhaps the swiss people wanted to send a warning shot across the bow of some muslims but, unfortunately, this was the only way to get their concerns aired properly and so all swiss muslims were affected.

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  • 67. At 8:44pm on 30 Nov 2009, LucyJ wrote:

    Why would the Swiss even put this on their ballot, if the answer was something they could not accept? That is like asking someone a question and then telling them you don't want to hear their answer. They asked the people and the people voted. I don't see how any country's govt. could override the people's vote, as that should be the ultimate say.

    And the truth is, I don't blame the Swiss people that voted for the ban of the minarets. Personally, due to 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, I do not trust these people.

    There are people that have been murdered in other countries, such as in the Netherlands, for freedom of speech in criticizing Islam with cartoons. Why would you want to bring that to your country?

    Hard-core Islamists follow the Sharia law, which states what you have to wear, who you can hang out with and how you can live your life. If you do not live your life a certain way, you are looked at with shame and somtimes even sentenced to death. That is why many ultrareligious Islamic people do not like Westerners- because we know what it truly means to be free.

    Do the Swiss want to give their country and freedoms up for political correctness? Clearly the people have made their choice. But will the govt. respect it or override it?

    In the USA, we have a similar problem...gay marriage. In every state where there was a vote on the subject, the people voted for a ban on gay marriage, even in liberal California. In the several states where gay marriage was passed, it was done so with government legislature and people were not allowed to vote. Should Americans allow gay marriage to overtake the USA? Should the Swiss allow immigrants to overtake Switzerland? In both cases, the Americans and Swiss who had a chance to vote, voted No. This should make the answer clear. Our govts. should do what we vote for, not what they want. Otherwise, our govts. will no longer be for the people.

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  • 68. At 8:45pm on 30 Nov 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    me_rijn, you define the "rule of law" as being the protection of minarets at all costs.

    You can if you want. I no longer believe in the "rule of law". I did, once, some years ago. Now I just think it is something lawyers talk about when they are trying to sound reasonable.

    Consider the hysteria that Mathiasen brings to the debate:

    "The result of the referendum in Switzerland is a disgrace and a democratic disaster. Not surprisingly protests are now arriving from all over the European continent.
    I expect the human rights court in Strasbourg to judge against it, and so Switzerland will have to change the decision."

    A disgrace and a democratic disaster. Because people are restricted in what sort of buildings they can construct.

    Let us put this in context: The EU makes rules about the shape of fruit which can be sold, and about what vegetables one may grow on their own property. In the EU, most if not all member states have outrageous systems of planning permission which leave any developer at the mercy of small groups of self appointed experts. Developers can have their projects delayed or cancelled by minority "objections".

    But none of these facts constitutes a "democratic disaster", let alone a disgrace. It is just how things are, in the world of property development and law.

    So why is Mathiasen so animated and emotional about this issue?

    Simple: It concerns religion. It concerns the rights of the church.

    And any infringement on the rights of any church is seen as some kind of affront to god himself.

    Worse still, this is an infringement on the rights of a organized religion by popular vote!!!!!

    What could offend someone born into high society more than that?

    This issue is going to rage on and on, because what has happened here is a massive, massive affront to the ruling class of Europe. Every Lady and every Lord, every Baron and every Count, all the Dukes and the Earls and the Viscounts and the princes, kings and queens..... they are all going to be spluttering and muttering for weeks if not years.

    This is a direct challenge to their way of doing business. After all, what is the use of paying all that money to run political parties, when the people can make their laws regardless of what you think?

    This issue is not about minarets and it is not about Muslims. It is fundamentally about how society is run, and who makes the laws.

    "democratic disaster" indeed. That is exactly what it is. For years the EU elite have been growing more and more emboldened with their methods of circumventing what little democracy existed in Europe, and now they have been confronted with a popular law made in accordance with a popular sentiment they have ignored and sneered at.

    For those with titles and with massive shareholdings, and who therefore sponsor the dominant political parties across Europe, this is indeed a massive democratic disaster.

    Just when they thought democracy was dead and buried, it goes and raises its ugly head.

    First they come for the priests, then they come for you. That is how it is for the airistocracy, faced with the will of the people.

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  • 69. At 9:00pm on 30 Nov 2009, Milan wrote:

    Well if in Switzerland live 7,739,100 people, and 400,000 of them are Muslim, which made just 5%, it's hard to believe that they can change Swiss culture. And if there are just 5 minarets it's stupid to think that they are going to change architecture or country. And if this had happened in same country that Christians are minority and that county ban's bells whole Europe that now bans minarets would said that that is a violation of human rights...

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  • 70. At 9:05pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    This has been quite a revealing little debate as the day has gone on.

    Of the 65 comments so far I have counted 5 contributors who are entirely opposed to the result of the Swiss Referendum:

    Eurobrit / Eurosider / Isenhorn / Mathiasen / plus one a.n. other

    Everyone of them also happens to be a 'pro-European Union' contributor.

    There are also 2 'pro-EU' (threnodio and lacerniagigante) who want the decision seen as an architectural/town planning decision and thus neatly side-stepping the main thrust of the article and the debate.
    From what I can tell of their remarks 2 more (oldorsetred and honestly-speaking) are decidedly opposed to the Referendum result but there is no way of knowing their EU-affiliation.

    3 'pro-EU', ChrisArta, Johan_H, Gheryando contributions supported the Swiss Citizens' vote and almost all other Comments that were supportive came from those of us either opposed to the EU in at leasts its present form, or to EU membership.

    MAII muttered in an indeterminant way.

    The 5 proponents of the EU in the main see the Referendum as an indicator of how the Plebian masses could be out of control if such Ballot methods were allowed; they argue that responsible Government leadership should make such decisions and implement Laws on behalf of the Citizens.
    The Majority of contributors were distinctly proponents of the Swiss Referendum result: Most see it as either an expression of the natural right of a Nation's Citizens to decide for themselves; some of us go further and believe it is an indicator of what could be achieved by the Citizens were such Ballot methods undertaken within the EU.


    So, it seems that the 'Democratic Right' to Vote and the 'Democratic legitimacy' of any Vote really is an issue at the heart of the arguments over 'whither the EU goest'!?

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  • 71. At 9:21pm on 30 Nov 2009, chaudhry786 wrote:

    I HAVE HEARD SO MANY TIMES THAT POLITIC IS DIRTY GAME AND POLITICIAN WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE GAINS. presently Muslims are the target of all. I DONT UNDERSTAND THE FUSS OUR MINERATS. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF MOSQUES WORLD WIDE WITHOUT MINERATS AND I AM SURE SO ARE CHURCHES. CHURCHES HAVE TO HOUSE BELLS AND MINERATS TO CALL FAITHFUL FOR PRAYERS. ONE FACT IS FOR SURE WHICH SCARES ALL INCLUDING BNP THAT ISLAM IS THE BIGGEST AND FASTEST GROWING RELIGION IN THE WORLD AND MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS GO TO MOSQUES. PLEASE DONT WASTE YOUR MONEY AND TIME GOING FOR REFERENDUMS TO BAN MINERATS AS IT HAS NO SIGNIFICANCE IN ISLAM.

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  • 72. At 9:23pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "me_rijn, you define the "rule of law" as being the protection of minarets at all costs."

    No never quite said or even suggested that.

    First of concerning the rest of your post which is partly about the EU: no idea why you have to keep referring to the EU, the EU doesn't have anything to do with this.

    Than concerning the rule of law and the fundamental difference from those other types of regulations you mentioned:

    European states have bound themselves by ratifying the ECHR. It entails an obligation on the part of those states to respect the rights enshrined therein and states should respect the rulings of the ECHR.

    This means that as a state you can not simply pick whatever you like in the ECHR, whenever you like. The freedom of religion must not only be upheld for the dominant or traditional religion, but also for minority or new religions.

    The townplanning regulations that already exist are written in a neutral manner, a simple ban on minarets is not neutral. Of course governmental policy needn't always be neutral, but if a state has committed itself to being neutral towards religions and to respect the freedom of religion a ban on minarets is in flagrant breach of this.

    Without the rule of law, democracy becomes mob rule. Democracy is never an end in itself, it's just a means to policies that benefit as many people as possible in our societies.

    There is nothing praiseworthy in itself about 'the will of the people'. A majority of the people don't know enough about politics/economics/law to give a damn about their views on national and international politics. That's why direct democracy on these big issues is a very bad idea, that's why direct democracy should only be used for local and specific issues. You needn't know much about international law to assess the consquences of whether or not an underground parking lot is constructed at your city, but for that question on minarets some knowledge on history, sociology, international law etc is necessary.

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  • 73. At 9:41pm on 30 Nov 2009, armagediontimes wrote:

    67 Illinoisan Well you certainly provide a counterbalance to fundamental Islam. You may know what it means to be truly free (but I doubt it), but you certainly make sure that others don't have the same opportunity. Do you have any idea how many people the US has killed around the world? What was the deal in sponsoring contras to blow up schools, hospitals and churhes in Nicaragua? Didn't one of your countrymen once express a desire to bomb Vietnam "back to the stoneage"

    Then we have Pol Pot a genocidal murderer of around 30% of the Cambodian population who benefitted from US munificence. Not to mention the installation of a Fascist regime in Iran (overthrown by the British in 1940 because of his admiration for one A Hitler). Moving swiftly on to the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the ongoing carnage in Iraq, the futile escapade in Afghanistan, the love in with the "freedom loving" Suharto in Indonesia, overt support for the Wahabbist regime in Saudi (notwithstanding the fact that 17 of the 19 9/11 killers came out of Saudi) and on and on the list goes.

    ...and what have you got for your troubles, why 1 in 8 Americans now get to experience the freedom of relying on food stamps in order to feed themselves.

    "Yet they tell you you're still a free man, Well if this is freedom I don't want to stay" Paul Weller. Check it out.

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  • 74. At 9:53pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    @WebAlice
    You mean praying must only be a one way communication to be pure, no feedback? what happens if you praying for the wrong thing or even worse if by accident one is praying to the wrong god?:)

    @Me_rijn
    No, I'm not a jurist I'm an engineer :)

    I still don't get it as why the ECHR will have any reason to tell the Swiss what types of buildings they should be allowed to build and what not? I can very well understand that what motivated people to vote the way they did is islam-phobia and not aesthtic motivations, however I fail to see how the ECHR can possible tell the Swiss you have to allow the building of minarets. Minarets as far as I understand is not a religions is a structure!

    Not sure about this but I also believe that Greece is part of the ECHR that country for a number of years has not allowed even the building of a mosque let alone a minaret, how is that allowed?

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  • 75. At 10:02pm on 30 Nov 2009, Chris wrote:

    @ Me_rijn

    Ohh also on another thing, I saw a city in Austria wants to ban "St. Clause" as the traditional Xmas theme there is "the child" where does that leave the ECHR? Will the citizens there have to justify why "the child" (whatever that means) is allowed to be celebrated as bringing gifts while poor old "St. Clause" is told to keep his elfs off the streets? :)))

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  • 76. At 10:04pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @#70 cool_brush_work

    I agree with your idea on the subject but not how you use it to show parallels to the Lisbon Treaty. The EU is not perfect, and even I, being Pro-EU, agree to that. However, the EU is something WE Europeans have created and even though its not to everyone's liking (Democratic deficit - which the LT actually decreases), we CAN change it, and make it better. The Swiss referendum was a referendum on something totally different. Something we have not created and something where we cannot change the rules.

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  • 77. At 10:14pm on 30 Nov 2009, GH1618 wrote:

    This is an absurdity worthy of Jonathan Swift.

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  • 78. At 10:35pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "I still don't get it as why the ECHR will have any reason to tell the Swiss what types of buildings they should be allowed to build and what not? I can very well understand that what motivated people to vote the way they did is islam-phobia and not aesthtic motivations, however I fail to see how the ECHR can possible tell the Swiss you have to allow the building of minarets. Minarets as far as I understand is not a religions is a structure!"

    Well basically because the obligations on the part of the signatory states are general. They apply regardless of the area of law.

    I'm guessing you are puzzled because town planning hasn't got much to do with human rights or freedom of religion, so how can the freedom of religion have effect on town planning?

    Take this example than: the UK bans the production/sale/.. of 'eucharists' (the piece of bread catholics receive from their priest to commemorate the last supper of jesus). You could argue that this regulation is about food safety and has nothing to do with religion.

    A eucharist isn't religion, it's a piece of bread/dough/whatever. But it is intrinsically linked with a religion, just like a minaret.

    These measures put a restraint on the freedom of religion (the measures needn't make it impossible to profess a religion!). And of course states can call in higher objectives, because few freedoms/rights are absolute (important exception: right to physical integrity: torturing is NEVER allowed): the freedom of religion may be legitimately restricted, but only if there are good reasons.

    So if you forbid a muslim from building the mosque he likes (including a nice minaret) you are restricting his freedom of (professing a) religion and you'll have to call in a higher objective. Islamophobes would say that minarets undermine public security or public order, but I hope it's clear that a serious court like the ECHR won't attach too much attention to such claims.

    As I already mention, you could argue that minarets aren't indispensable to the muslim faith. But this is something the ECHR won't be to keen about to scrutinize. In the end, religion is something the professor experiences and it's hard (as an atheist/christian/whatever) to say to a muslim: minarets are not indispensable to your faith. This regardless of the fact that something should not be indispensable before it falls under the freedom of religion.

    A last example: recently we have (or is it still going on?) the Festival of sacrifice (eid al adha) where muslims sacrifice all kinds of animals. In my country (and I suppose in many other european countries) muslims aren't allowed to slaughter lambs/goats in their own home, but temporary abattoirs are set up to address the needs of the muslim community. This is ofcourse a restriction of their freedom of religion: muslims would probably prefere to do this at home as is religious custom. But for reasons of animal welfare, food safety, etc. this restriction is legitimate: we balance certain requirements, rights and freedoms and (try to) make sure that muslims can profess their religion, animals are treated as humane as possible (vegetarians will disagree) and food meets the safety standards we have laid down.

    I hope I explained it in a clear manner.

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  • 79. At 10:36pm on 30 Nov 2009, kakapo wrote:

    Good for the Swiss. As for freedom of religion - what about freedom FROM religion? Most Western countries have spent a long time dragging themselves out from the dark ages, and it's a painful and ongoing process. Why would we voluntarily go backwards by pandering to a religion whose holy book states quite clearly that, amongst other things, those who don't believe in God should be killed? No, thank-you. Scrap that part from this backward religion - along with all those bits that make women inferior, and then some - and then I might possibly care about the buildings in which this idiotic belief system is spread. Until then, yes: Muslims ARE second class citizens, because they're actively promoting an ideology that harms others.

    And that goes for other religions as well. Paedophile priests and sharia law occupy the same circle of hell to my mind.

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  • 80. At 10:38pm on 30 Nov 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    76. At 10:04pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    " ... the EU is something WE Europeans have created ...P"

    NO!!

    It is a monstrosity created by an arrogant, big-headed, dictatorial, megalomaniac clique against the known wishes of "WE Brits".

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  • 81. At 10:43pm on 30 Nov 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Illinoisan

    Re #67

    Sorry, have to chuckle...

    ".. Why would the Swiss even put this on their ballot paper if the answer was something they could not accept? That is like asking someone a question and then telling them you don't want to hear their answer. They asked the people and the people voted".

    You mean like the Government of Eire deciding to put a question via a Referendum on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty: In which the result was not what the EU wanted to hear!

    Only, unlike Switzerland, the Irish were told to vote again, and get their answer right, or else!

    'Democracy' EU style: Warms the heart, it does!

    Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle...

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  • 82. At 10:43pm on 30 Nov 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Forgot to address the comments on greece and austria:

    Greece: I looked it up briefly and didn't find a clear and general restriction in greek law on building mosques. The 'problem' was that no mosques were build in greece.

    Now this is interesting: it might of course be that many a time a muslim community applied for planning permission to construct a mosque and that the Greek authorities each time refused to grant authorization because "the proposal wasn't conform planning regulations" whereas in reality it came down to an anti-islamic policy. This would be as illegal as the minaret ban under the ECHR, but much harder to prove, unlike the minaret ban which will be written in the constitution black and white.

    Austria:

    Don't know anything about this. But I can't really believe that Austrian authorities would oblige people to sing song A and formally prohibiting them from singing song B. A clear link with freedom of religion isn't really apparent either, but a link with other rights/freedoms might exist of course.

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  • 83. At 10:51pm on 30 Nov 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    72. At 9:23pm on 30 Nov 2009, Me_rijn wrote:


    " ... A majority of the people don't know enough about politics/economics/law to give a damn about their views on national and international politics. That's why direct democracy on these big issues is a very bad idea ..."

    So if they don't know enough to vote on just one issue at a time, how do they know enough to vote for a representative when they are voting on several issues at once?

    Should they be allowed to vote at all?

    Thye answer from the "EU"-lovey camp would appear to be a resounding "NO!!". Temporarily they are allowing them to vote but then ignore promises made when they voted so that they might as well not have
    voted at all. Surely the next step of the "EU"-dictatorship is going to be to save the expense of elections when they are going to ignore us anyway and do away with voting altogether.

    Presumable the "Euroepean Gendarmes" and the "European Arm" will then be used to ensure that those of us who are "stupid" (i.e. disagree with our masters) do not get too uppity.

    What next? "Disappearances" as in Franco's Spain or Argentina under the military - all of course for the good of the people.

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  • 84. At 10:52pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    SB2

    Whatever you say. We DID create it. For better or for worse, its much more preferrable to war, wouldn't you say? Furthermore, wouldn't you say that the provision of the LT for an exit of a state from the union is actually something that speaks for the treaty and that you should appreciate?

    But you're missing the point here. The discussion is about the Swiss referendum and I simply wanted to make a point. I could have as well used any other project in the making.

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  • 85. At 10:53pm on 30 Nov 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    72. At 9:23pm on 30 Nov 2009, Me_rijn wrote:


    " ... A majority of the people don't know enough about politics/economics/law to give a damn about their views on national and international politics. "

    This is a constantly recurring them amongst postings from "EU"-lovers. It explains the arrogance behind Lisbon. It tells us where the "EU" is headed.

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  • 86. At 11:07pm on 30 Nov 2009, Seraphim wrote:

    Kinda interesting that even a vote from a usually well educated population (and I am not being sarcastic in any way) can come up with such a result.

    I guess making some "weird" decisions is not an unique feature of the EU.

    Personally I don't care much what either religion needs to pray to their gods best. However as we have various churches of different kinds and jewish synagoges as well I don't see how minarettes should be forbidden.

    As for assimilation, I think learning the language and going to mixed schools or kindergardens is far more important than forcing anyone into a religion (which actually has not worked out that well in the past thousand years either)

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  • 87. At 11:29pm on 30 Nov 2009, rugbydoc wrote:

    When Mecca allows churches then the Swiss should allow minarets.
    But FEAR of minarets???
    7/7, 9/11, 14/7, honour killings, Barcelona train bomb, female circumcision, forced marriage, stoning of homosexuals, wife beating + polygamy enshrined in the Koran ... What is there to be afraid of anyway?

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  • 88. At 11:56pm on 30 Nov 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    84. At 10:52pm on 30 Nov 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    "SB2

    ... its much more preferrable to war, wouldn't you say?..."

    SB2: I do not accept the[at the "EU" has prevented war or that even if it had it would prevent war in the future. I believe it could result in wars of independence and give the undemocratic, megalomaniac 'EU' the ability to launch and a war of aggression.




    G: ' Furthermore, wouldn't you say that the provision of the LT for an exit of a state from the union is actually something that speaks for the treaty and that you should appreciate?'

    SB2: No, because we could have left anyway.

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  • 89. At 00:22am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ChrisArta, @74. On comms. :o))) "what if you pray to a wrong God?"

    Now, ChrisArta, be reasonable. How can a Russian pray to a "wrong God"?
    Russky God ought to somehow sort out who is calling.

    Besides, come to think of it, by the look of it - didn't exactly notice that Russians pray to God. 90%of the time people seem to address icons, representing various saints. You chose one in a church to your liking - and it does look like a museum inside :o) - all old and in frames, and ask him/her, the one that is more inclined to be attentive to your troubles.

    For example, St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) is for Navy safe-keeping and all those "at sea" (for who Russians invariably drink "the third toast - to those at sea!" :o). And, for distant travellers overall that you lost somewhere :o)))

    Madonna and baby is about children's health concerns, and, how to say, overall, she is the kindest one.

    Prince Alexandre Nevsky (canonised) I personally addressed very effectively a number of times having troubles with Swedish bosses at work. He is not for Swedish in particular, but for Germans, but I reasoned like all the same. Approx. :o))) Same, say, varyags/vikings.

    So it's a wide representation, for various purposes. Total democracy, LOL, I'd say :o))))
    There is an icon (not in our city) for wives asking that their husbands stop drinking vodka :o))), there is one icon in St. Pete for students failing exams, those, feeling they will. Type "I will fail tomorrow. Fact. :o( " :o))))) - they hurry up there.

    So it's a wide representation, for various puproses. Total democracy, LOL, I'd say. :o))))

    And "Russky God" is a notion. We are not sure where how and why. Not explained anywhere, an un-definable subject. Him (we vaguely feel it's "him" but I won't bet on it) you don't bother with trifles, but keep for serious cases type war.

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  • 90. At 00:23am on 01 Dec 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    SB2,

    Again, you're missing my point. Can I remind you of why I made the point in the first place. To showcase the rigidity of an all-encompassing archaic social order imposed through scripture vs something that can be changed and modernized through negotiations. Will you now please stop splitting hairs and focus on the heart of the debate. I'm sure there will be plenty of future posts about the LT and you can ramble on then.

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  • 91. At 00:36am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    I must clarify that "Russky God" is some place don't know where but looks beyond religion or the main-stream of it. A feeling. And he is not described in any wiki LOL pages telling ab "different world religions". Not mentioned by our church either.
    An own, grass-root level, population's perception.

    Officially Russian Orthodox is Jesus Christ and the notion of trinity - God-son (Jesus Christ), God-Father (they don't speak much ab him. ? May be that one is Russky God?) and God-Divine Spirit. The last one is a dove this is easy all know.

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  • 92. At 00:45am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    On the subject of the blog itself - "Minarets in Switzerland" can't make myself focus. Sounds somehow funny and I can't get serious and view it as a good substantial problem. The very phrase - "Minarets in Switzerland" - and my brains get short-cut :o)))).

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  • 93. At 00:53am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "And of course states can call in higher objectives, because few freedoms/rights are absolute (important exception: right to physical integrity: torturing is NEVER allowed): the freedom of religion may be legitimately restricted, but only if there are good reasons."

    OK, except that torture WAS allowed. The CIA used Poland as a base for torture, and other EU states assisted with "renditions". Otherwise known as "kidnapping for the purpose of torture".

    And the UK actively took part in torture sessions.

    Now you know this, and I know you don't like it any more than me. And you are correct, we have have laws to prevent this sort of thing. But this is why I no longer believe in the rule of law. We have the laws, we just don't enforce them against the ruling elite.

    Everybody knows Blair is a war criminal under the same laws which caused the german leadership to be hung after the second world war. He invaded a country that posed no threat, and he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew, we knew, and he knew that we knew.

    But there is no accountability. The law is there, but it only gets enforced when it suits the ruling elite. So all the sons and daughters of judges who want to do good deeds in the world, they are given money from the state and they set up their pretend war crimes court, and they persecute black men and guys from Serbia. But they don't talk about American or English war criminals, because the rule of law only goes so far.

    Anyway, you have hit the mail on the head with this last sentence (above). The rule of law always comes down to making exception when there are "good reasons". In the english system, we say when the "reasonable man" would agree to make an exception, then the law should bend. When the "reasonable man" would make a hard rule, the "rule of law" must apply.

    But who says what is a reasonable man, and what is a good reason?

    That is what this debate is all about. The people of Switzerland do not think it is reasonable to allow the organizers of the muslim religion to erect minarets in the pursuance of their faith. The reasonable man in Switzerland say this is not a legitimate freedom, and not a legitimate human right.

    Now the elite class of judges in the UK and in the EU might think otherwise, and they cannot be wrong. To them, a reasonable person thinks differently to the average swiss voter.

    You suggest that the average commoner is unfit to judge what you define as complex cultural issues. Maybe you are right. That is a legitimate opinion. I can follow your reasoning there. But at the same time, I disagree that the judges in the UK and the EU are fit and proper people to judge the vast majority of issues that they do judge on a daily basis, and I have severe reservations about whether the EU commission is a fit judge of economic law for the people of the EU.

    My concerns are that these people have become to corrupted by the money and career support they receive from the corporate sector. I see a huge divide opening up between the ruling party elite and the common people. Not just as divide of ideology, but a real divide in the way they live.

    Judges and EU politicians live segregated lives. They live in walled and guarded compounds. They drive to work in bomb proof limousines. They eat in exclusive dinning rooms, and they work behind closed doors in exclusive venues. they have become alien to the experiences of the common people. That is why they are able to talk casually and freely about the theory of secular life. They do not see what has happened to the inner city of Rotterdam, or Birmingham, or Dortmund, or Paris. They drive past all that tension and mess, and step out of their air conditioned cars into the next hotel lobby, where a suit with a clipboard guides them towards the next meeting.

    The political and judicial world in Europe has merged with the corporate world of international business, and this is making the people strangers to their leaders.

    In such a scenario, I have no faith in the competence of the political class. Already they are telling the peasants to eat cake if they are hungry, lecturing to them about economic theory as the well paid blue collar jobs disappear and the bankers bonuses get paid for by tax dollars.

    So you might be right, there might be real dangers of mob excess with direct democracy. But there are equal dangers in allowing the rule of elites to snuff out the legitimate concerns of the reasonable man from the street.

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  • 94. At 01:02am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Though I give credit to a few ideas expressed here - namely "size matters" (of the population sample going through Referendum, and which areas are included), then - a blogger expressed in the other thread, but on the same subject - that it is alright for a nation state to be oriented by referendum's decision and majority's vote - UNLESS this state presents itself as "we've got here multi-culturism, we are tolerant of ALL religions and nations" - kind of - don't be hypocritical then. Either you are a nation and speak out about it - as the Swiss did -fine, or you are "all-embracing multi-cultural et. PC, tolerant, etc. bla-bla - then care to stand up to the advertising message, weather your majority wants it or not.
    And the third idea, dt's, I liked, who views it as a step in the right direction (of many ahead) (that is, LOL! he hopes :o))) it is in the right direction, or will work out to this end somehow in distant future :o))))). Dt's approach I would formulate for myself as similar to one of the rules of crisis management - when in doubt, how to say, don't leave it out, but as there are no sign-posts around in the environment for your sure orientation - do ANY THING. But do, don't freeze in inactivity. Then you'll take a position and future will tell were you right ab it or wrong - but at least you get a measure, you'll be able to measure in future against oneself. Since all others are unable LOL to say what's right what's wrong. Later on you can correct yourself, but at least there'll be something to correct. Any decision is better than no decision, so to say.

    So, let's hope, it'll self-correct itself in future :o))))
    Then I guess I am against. But that's me, and that's Switzerland. What's Gertruda for him, what's he for Gertruda, and all. The Swiss know for themselves what's better for them. They are "neutrals", by defintion.
    Which means they don't want to part-take in war, neither outside their society, nor to have war inside it. Must be it's old as hills egoistic instinct speaking up in the Swiss - don't encourage trouble come into your country. Looks simple. Who ever cancelled good old Swiss egoism, that keeps them healthy ? :o)))

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  • 95. At 01:20am on 01 Dec 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    One thing the Swiss can say, they own their money, they own their land, they own their country and nobody can tell them what to do with it. That's something no country in the EU can say.

    dt, if there was justice...your entire government would probably be in prison this very minute for money laundering. Shhh, don't tell anybody.

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  • 96. At 01:32am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    And all the rest are, granted, jealous with the Swiss, being pushed around by own governments (me included) to accommodate PC and tolerance and "multi-culturism" (in fact, feel alright, about that "multi") - at that, at own expense. Because very, very, unwilling to accept local rules - written and un-written aliens - are nursed around by the Government as children, and it is clearly not fair, why are the newcomers suddenly being preferred to good old own folk and can get away with whatever.
    When Chechen cavalcade of cars cruised around Moscow and shot out of car windows ("national custom" :o))) - they were held in the police station and let go same day. Imagine, LOL, what'll happen to a Russian illegally carrying a gun and matter-of-factly shooting at the passer-by's in the down town of the capital. Ho! Ah, anyway.

    It all happens when the state declares something by itself, like "we are now all tolerant" - and then has to stand up to the "advertising".
    They can't stand, because it's people who are either tolerant or un-tolerant. But the word had been said, and promise has to be kept, to keep the face. As the darling "newcomers" - when pressed hard - will shoot back without a second thought at Government - Government does not dare to press the darling newcomers to be "tolerant". Instead, Government presses those who they know are less dangerous - namely own old folk. Simply, cowardice. So the old local folk has to be double tolerant - on own behalf LOL, and on behalf of the strangers. That's why double load on psychics and, how to say, results in the winter of discontent. Why where is the sun of York is unclear!
    :o)))

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  • 97. At 01:38am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Mavrelius, FYI, Russian gangsters of 1990-s and country national wealth robbers of all kinds who came after and siphoned all out - landed money in the USA. No Switzerland. Which the US banks gladly took in not asking a single question tupe oh how come you're suddenly so rich? And all Russian elite keeps families in London. So don't tell me about Switzerland "in prizon this any minute for money laundering". You :o) - owe me much more.

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  • 98. At 01:40am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    to say nothing you can't even keep Russia's money but stubbornly pass it over to China.

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  • 99. At 02:55am on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Truly, Web Alice,

    You have hit the nail on the head.

    "When in doubt, route"

    HMMM you have money in Russia? You are the USA's New Best Friend (NBF)

    :) David

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  • 100. At 03:13am on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ChrisArta, back on religious and/or law topic; now I haven't tried it myself but I saw the experiment on TV, and am actually very much impressed in case it's true.

    There are apparently around some strips of paper with chemicals on, which a traffic policeman can make a driver LOL to lick, and then stripes appear :o))) saying that the chap is pregnant :o))) No, I mean, they say if one has alcohol in the blood (or body somehow)? or not.

    Now I saw it on TV repeated 4 times. A man - any one - you don't need to be special - but catch anyone in the street - licks that stripe and as he drank nil beer or whatever before the strip shows nothing.

    The next thing the man imagines he has a glass of vodka. Purely symbolically, remembers how :o))) damn nice it was, how he gobbled it up and other :o))) fond associations from own past experience. I suppose any drink will do which one is :o))) special friends with. Takes 3 min.
    Then you lick the stripe again and it shows you've got alcohol in blood and can't drive 100%.

    ??? Op-la-la.
    What the TV show tried to prove to Russian audience is that the old saying "thought is material" is not symbolic but it is material. Your thoughts somehow re-tune you body so much that even stupid chemicals show that chemicals in your body have changed.

    If a thought can do this much in terms of driving tests it means thoughts might do other things we haven't figured out yet. Because normally a thought is supposed to change? nothing? not much?

    I wish I had acquaintanted trafic policemen to do some experimenting. If I come across one will try to extract stripes out of him. One thing is TV another thing is non-TV.
    we longly believe that old icons much prayed upon for centuries work better than freshly done ones. an idea un-proven scientifically, but if thoughts are able to do something? then? there is some energy ? condensed? around much thought over, intensively, objects?



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  • 101. At 05:35am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Marcus writes:
    "dt, if there was justice...your entire government would probably be in prison this very minute for money laundering. Shhh, don't tell anybody."

    Money laundering? An american makes an accusation of money laundering????

    What do you call it when the USA sells billions of dollars to weapons to Israel, which then sell the weapons on to whichever countries have the hard cash to buy them?

    Is that laundering blood money through Israel? Or simply a legitimate trade in military hardware?

    And when the US government borrows money to go to war, how do they know who they are borrowing from? They don't. Anyone, any drug lord or mass murderer in Liberia or central american states propped up by the CIA can buy US treasury bonds and earn interest paid for by the US taxpayer. There are no checks on who buys US treasuries. After all, look at how many have been bought by the Chinese government.

    So does that mean the US government is washing the chinese governments profits from communist slavery?

    After all, the money is going from the slave owners in the Chinese communist party to the US government, where it is turned into the legitimate business of war for the US empire. And profits are paid to the Chinese for the service.

    That seems to me to be a mechanism for turning dirty money into clean profits. Wouldn't you agree? And the last time I checked, you go to the laundry to make what is dirty clean.

    It seems that if the Swiss do international business, they are morally responsible for the actions of everyone they do business with. But when the USA does international business, the glorious US government are never responsible for the direct effects of their policies.

    It is a profound irony that the Swiss, who are the only country with a firm law and tradition of neutrality, and who created the Red Cross to assist the victims of international conflicts, are accused of profiting from the war and barbarity of other states.

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

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  • 102. At 05:36am on 01 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    68. democracythreat
    70. cool_brush_work
    Gentlemen, I shall not go into any longer analysis of this.
    I) You elegantly ignore the entire choir of protests coming from the entire European community.
    II) You ignore the legal evaluations, we have heard through the day: Switzerland will lose in Strasbourg.
    III) You have no reflections whatsoever on what this referendum means to the religious freedom guaranteed in the democratic constitutions of Europe.
    IV) You have no reflections on, what this means to the relation between Europe and the Arab countries.
    V) You have no reflections on the nonconformity of the Swiss referendum with the Enlightenment, a crucial element in European identity (please tell Mr. Hewitt one day, he is apparently completely blank on this). Please read Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” or Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinocéros”.

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  • 103. At 06:02am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I wonder this morning if the friction between the Swiss society and the Islamic community is a reflection of a deeper conflict of social methods.

    I have been reading some Marx and he writes:

    "Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist."

    Leaving to one side the fact that it was the water mill and not the hand mill which was the characteristic mode of production in feudal society, what if this piece of reasoning is accurate?

    That is to say, what does the automated robotic workshop create, in terms of social relationships? The anarchist atheist and the techno-cratic shareholder, perhaps?

    I mention this because a lot of the commentary of the Swiss vote seems to misplace the sentiment of the Swiss people. People from outside Switzerland presume that the Swiss are frightened of radical Islam, and that the right wing are tapping into ignorant hysteria.

    I don't see that. What I get from speaking to all manner of folks is a deep seated rejection of Islam as boring and useless. The Swiss just do not want to mess up their nice clean radicalism with outdated concepts.

    This might be hard to understand, but it is a fact that the swiss are exceedingly tidy. They are also radical and very intellectual in their thinking. I just don't see fear of Islam, I see contempt. The Swiss want to be rid of it in the same way as the Indians want to be rid of hand drawn rickshaws.

    And so I wonder, does religious practice really have a legitimate place in the modern age?

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  • 104. At 06:19am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I) You elegantly ignore the entire choir of protests coming from the entire European community.

    The entire european community? I beg to differ.
    I suggest that you ignore that fact that the vast majority of Europeans support not only the rejection of Islamic religious rights, but also the fact that the Swiss democracy is a useful and enviable system of government. I refer you to the BBC's "have your say" on this issue. Look at the empirical data. The vast majority of people agree with the Swiss.

    II) You ignore the legal evaluations, we have heard through the day: Switzerland will lose in Strasbourg.

    Strasbourg can say whatever it wants. It does not have the power to make law in Switzerland. If it demands that Switzerland comply with its rulings, Switzerland is at liberty to repudiate the treaty ratifying the ECHR.

    III) You have no reflections whatsoever on what this referendum means to the religious freedom guaranteed in the democratic constitutions of Europe.

    I reflect that it high time we re-evaluate whether "religious freedom" is a legitimate aspiration in a modern and civilized world. I would happily see religious practice reclassified as a privilege, and not a right. Like driving, if you can't do it responsibly, then you lose the privilege.

    I put it to you that religious freedom and democratic duty are increasingly incompatible. I suggest that world has suffered enough fro idiots doing violence in the name of religious freedom. Let us see some social responsibility instead.

    IV) You have no reflections on, what this means to the relation between Europe and the Arab countries.

    With luck, it will give great moral support to every sane inhabitant of backward Islamic theocracies who are trying their best to drag their sorry nations into the modern age. Instead of the west paying lip service to the barbaric practice of sharia law and theocratic dictatorships, perhaps Islamic law will start to be called what it is: outdated and abhorrent.

    I think the intellectual appeasement of theocracy has gone on long enough. We do no favours to the people of theocracies who must endure sharia law and its charms by whispering sweet nothing to their dictators. All we achieve is cosy trade deals for mega rich western shareholders of corporations. And frankly, to hell with them. We've heard enough from them too.

    V) You have no reflections on the nonconformity of the Swiss referendum with the Enlightenment, a crucial element in European identity (please tell Mr. Hewitt one day, he is apparently completely blank on this). Please read Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” or Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinocéros”.

    Waffle, Mathiasen. Coffee table waffle and intellectual junk.

    You would react in horror at the thought of being forced to live under sharia law, or any other kind of theocracy. While that is true, you simply embarrass yourself by appealing to the abstract notion of "Enlightenment".

    Be real, and admit that your enjoy electricity and the material benefits of modern engineering. You owe science more than you admit, and you refuse to acknowledge the very serious problems posed by theocratic rule.

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  • 105. At 06:50am on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Mathiasen,

    Don't go robotic on us. (like the Borg in Star Trek?)

    Switzerland is a beautiful nation protected by mountains from envious eyes and aims. It's languages are Germanic AND Romantic.

    It's portrayed as a haven. AND maybe the Swiss do know something you don't know (one of the few things.. you may not know of), that they know they are sovereign beings and

    Have not been sullied, as you might think, but they are in tune with their survival instincts and their progressive instincts at the same time.

    How can you judge them, when they are just the first of many European continent nations to confront the 800 lb gorilla/danger in their midst?

    How can I say this thing? Because, I'm pragmatic, and ok with my survival instincts. I want to survive and not as a robot or brainwashed idiot.

    David S.

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  • 106. At 07:13am on 01 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #105 David S.
    You are using an American code I don't know.
    I can recommend everybody to read Friedrich Dürrenmatt's "Visit of the old Lady", and everybody to consider, why intellectuals have taken such positions and what it is they fear: The Swiss decision is the first step into a new right-wing authoritarian regime.
    I can also recommend everybody to read the comment the Swiss minister of justice has made.

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  • 107. At 07:35am on 01 Dec 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Banning the minarets rings a bell or two.

    Despite the depressive result, I think there are two positive aspects of this vote:

    1. religious symbols have to become more private: if you ban minarets, then you must also ban other religious manifestations, including non-Muslim ones, if you don't want to be "unfair",

    2. it makes us aware of the amount of closet Nazis hiding behind the mask of "democratic legitimacy" (remember how the Nazis won democratic elections)...

    3. it's good this happened in Switzerland and not in some other country, say Spain. As Graham Greene noted some time ago, 500 years of peace and Cuckoo clocks are better left at their dullness, but imagine the economic disaster of destroying the Alhambra mosques to make some right-wingers happy.

    4. those "Muslims" so upset now, calling for a Boycott, should take inspiration from this. Instead of going to Geneva/Zürich downtown to binge spend, the Arab sheikhs should go to those 4 villages which still have a minaret to spend their money. Soon you will see that those anti-immigration Swiss (money walks...) will change idea.

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  • 108. At 07:40am on 01 Dec 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    104. At 06:19am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "I reflect that it high time we re-evaluate whether "religious freedom" is a legitimate aspiration in a modern and civilized world. I would happily see religious practice reclassified as a privilege, and not a right. Like driving, if you can't do it responsibly, then you lose the privilege."

    Fair, but then banning the minaret (or other religious building for that matter) amounts to banning the motorway to shield us from the danger bad drivers... Just trying to follow your logic (personally, the less religious symbols I see around me, whatever religion, including the silly Christmas frenzy, the happier I am).

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  • 109. At 07:46am on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    I fear the right wing, too, but

    when it converges w/other right wing groups, I then fear both and am appalled by both, but Im 52 and the poor younger people, I fear for them, and me, a little bit.

    So no offense just keep your eyes open:)

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  • 110. At 08:35am on 01 Dec 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    67. At 8:44pm on 30 Nov 2009, Illinoisan wrote:
    ‘In the USA, we have a similar problem...gay marriage. In every state where there was a vote on the subject, the people voted for a ban on gay marriage, even in liberal California. In the several states where gay marriage was passed, it was done so with government legislature and people were not allowed to vote. Should Americans allow gay marriage to overtake the USA?’

    So, gay marriage is a ‘problem’, is it? And what problem is it of yours, illinoisian? What business is it of yours who people want to marry? Who appointed you to make decsions on the private life of people? Why don’t you just stick to things that concern you directly and leave the choice of marriage partner to the people concerned?

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  • 111. At 08:38am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #89

    WebAlice with so many icons to pray for help, all a good Russian needs to do is look for an icon that helps and protects lotto numbers and pray in front of it for the numbers, now if that happens I'd call it divine :))) forget the lick stripes (I don't believe TV) even if it worked, it would not be of much use :))

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  • 112. At 08:40am on 01 Dec 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    Re:106. At 07:13am on 01 Dec 2009, Mathiasen

    Thank you for your recommendations. I suggest you start telling people in Germany and Denmark that there will be trouble if the "EU"-lovers don't stop their sick, antidemocratic behaviour.

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  • 113. At 08:46am on 01 Dec 2009, steelpulse wrote:

    "Fear of........." allegedly? Tother two words are unnecessary Mr Hewitt, for thread strapline. And many other straplines about many other subjects.
    I am lost for words on the Swiss vote in this case and a lot of the texts above, so best say no more.

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  • 114. At 09:05am on 01 Dec 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    90. At 00:23am on 01 Dec 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    "SB2,

    Again, you're missing my point. ... I'm sure there will be plenty of future posts about the LT and you can ramble on then. "

    SB2: I can ramble on whenever and wherever I like. Democracy has been abolished in the "EU" so we have to use other means to express ourselves.

    My local council has sent me a questionnaire on heating and insulation in my residence. I shall be replying that I demand a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

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  • 115. At 09:05am on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Intellectual means good? And non-intellectual means?

    What is the difference, please, between an Intellectual and an intelligent person?

    Or between intelligence and information? It sounds like s slippery slope.... Or a place Angels fear to tread.

    Or right and wrong? Which is what? That means, someone above IS right..and I'm out of words too:)

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  • 116. At 09:10am on 01 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    Today Bild Zeitung is publishing an article with the headline: Seven truths about Islam.
    The article explains how many minarets we have in Germany, how many Muslims we have, that mosques are not centres of terror, that males and females are not equal in the mosque, and finally that it is creating confidence, when prayers are said in German instead of Arabic. It also notices that mosques are having open door days to get in dialogue with its surroundings.

    Never had I imagined that I should experience the day, where I could write this: Bild Zeitung has written a balanced article. It elucidates the reader. It is free of intolerance and hatred. It is permeated with common sense.
    It is a good day in Germany.

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  • 117. At 09:17am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    @ Me_rijn

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my posts. I can see the logic in you arguments however just by answering my argument you also added proved the fact that the ECHR can not in make a judgement against Swiss banning minarets.

    It does not stop a moslem enjoy "freedom of religion" all the other things you mention are peripheral to religion and more to do with customs and traditions rather than "freedon of religion". As you said eucharist is part of religion but not religion, if here in the UK health & safety said we ban eucharist for reason x (too thin or too many calories, whatever) the ECHR will have a hard time trying to prove it restricted religious freedom, if would not stop a person going to church or been Christian. The same with the killing of animals you mentioned.

    If the case was that one can take "freedon of religion" and use anything associated with religion as an argument at the ECHR that it violates his/her "freedom of religion" rigths then Osama would not need to be a terrorist all he'd have to do would be move Europe somewhere hire a good group of lawyers and go about building his dream world (well for the dream world part, he may have to pay copy rights to Walt Disney first).

    Because

    If we use your logic that not having a minaret it violates a moslim's "freedon of religion",

    Then
    a moslim living in Switzerland not having more one wife violates his "freedon of religion"
    a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to kill an animal in his own house violates his "freedon of religion"
    a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to take every Friday off violates his "freedon of religion"
    etc. etc.

    Unless "freedon of religion" is far more powerfull than it sounds then it is as simple as letting people believe whatever "fantacy" they like without interference as simple as that!

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  • 118. At 09:37am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    ...
    also so that my previous post does not only mention moslems the same goes for christians, a christian from eastern churches (WebAlice help here) could use the ECHR to ensure that Xmas holidays take place on around the 6th of January and that easter holidays take place around 2 weeks later, if not his/her religious freedom is violated. So with this and post #117 I still believe the ECHR can not find anything wrong with Swiss banning minarets, as I said a city (I wished I could remeber its name now, I think it is Graz) in Austria wants shop that only sell "the child" Xmas traditional things to be marked as such, that could also be seen as religious discrimination (which is not) as it supports one religious sympol more than another.

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  • 119. At 09:40am on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mathiasen writes:
    "that males and females are not equal in the mosque,"

    Quick! A breach of fundamental human rights! I daresay the self appointed elite judges of what is reasonable will bring actions before the ECJ to stop this moral and legal outrage. Not.

    Of course nothing will be done to force the Islamic community to abide by the same standards of sexual equality that apply to the christian community.

    Because religious rights override human rights. Because it is fashionable to defend Islam as an exotic spiritual adventure, rather than condemn it as an outdated and oppressive system of rules by which to live. Because it is not fashionable to defend the rights of young women living in "Islamic communities". Those citizens do not deserve the protection of the law, because the elites who decide what is actionable in the media couldn't care less about them.

    This is the great danger of allowing the elite to make law. The elite think themselves incapable of making mistakes, because they are educated at all the best schools. So they end up supporting fashionable concepts, and refusing to listen to the majority of the population who have to live in the community.

    The same things happens with economic laws. You have elites whose family members own shares in international companies and banks. So the laws get made to suit those folks. Skilled blue collar jobs which are crucial to the long term health of the economy get thrown away, training for industrial skills gets thrown away, and all so that large corporations can import cheap unskilled labour and outsource skilled jobs to cheaper places in other countries. And the banks make a killing on the back of the taxpayer.

    That is what happens when the people who make your laws don't even live in your country, but instead travel between compounds and the airport, and holiday in foreign resorts built to cater to their refined tastes.

    This is why I despise the shallow journalism which does away with any reference to political parties within the EU. There is no context to give meaning to what the people who make law think or believe. Instead of having competing views on how best to serve the people, Europe endures a mono class of corporate sycophants who think... no, who KNOW that they know best. For everybody.

    As it happens, I personally disagree with the vote on the minarets. that is my opinion on that issue. But I respect the right of the people of Switzerland to make their laws, and I respect the will of the majority more than I respect the will of the elite corporate class in Europe.

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  • 120. At 10:09am on 01 Dec 2009, KateHowie wrote:

    Religion is the only "Basic Right to non-discrimination" not premised on an innate characteristic red hair, race, sex, sexuality, birth status, it is more properly in the category of freedom of speech and assembly and expression, which have restrictions - for instance it is not proper to advocate intimidation, coercion, violence and murder, as these remove choice and individuals free exercise of other "rights". Just because some book extols such behaviour in the name of religion or its adherents (what ever brand) is not a behaviour which can be tolerated in a civilised society. IMO
    It is perhaps worth remembering that the whole idea of present day rights came about because of the catholic church imposing belief and practice on an increasingly educated and economically independent people; Hence lutherism calvinism quakers baptists episcopalians humanism and the enlightnment deist and so on - equality of the application of laws thus came about, ie dont impose on some one else (or their community) some thing that in practice you would not accept, this expanded to a realisation that religious doctrine could NOT be expressed in laws for if the anglicans could have their beliefs put in law then why not the lutherans, but we all believe in god - right - no - hence rational basis - Harm or denial of others rights.
    So back to the towers to god - there are many more mosques without minarets than with, so this cannot be a denial of religious belief, and not all churches have spires or bell towers and those that do - the bells are often silenced by law because they cause an intrusion on the community, similarly the call to prayer from minarets via loud speaker is also banned.

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  • 121. At 10:17am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #119

    As it happens I agree with the banning of minarets, if it wasn't for purposes of using churches as tourist attractions I'd say go further and do the same with churches :))

    About the political parties and elites been out of touch it has more to do with the system they operate in. As good as direct democracy sounds it needs work. It is neither the solutions to all of societies ills as you claim nor it is rule by the mob as "me_rjin" (or plato before him) claim.

    In theory it can work but it needs the right framework. It needs independed from the political process courts and highly independed and not fragmented mass media. It needs wealth not to be concentrated and so on.

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  • 122. At 10:20am on 01 Dec 2009, jobsw32 wrote:

    Sleepwalking into it. There is a sense of it all, Yhey aren't overpowering us by force but sneaking in around the back way.

    We tolerate more than them so it's unequal. when someone laid back is confronted by someone assertive then their presence is overpowering.

    I think we are learning that maybe we need to support each other a bit more. They aren't just sneaking in around the back they are sneaking in while we are at each others throats already.

    One alone is overpowered, two withstand, three are not quickly broken. It's a drip drip little bit every day thing that feels sinister before you know it the one has become many and suddenly someone flicks a switch and the lights come on and you are the minority...

    It's just another horrible reality about to dawn upon us. Then there is a kick back and a kick back.

    At the end of the day in a squabble someone had to have committed the first hostile act. T'all builds up. scrappy brits in one corner fuming zealots in the other, brazen europeans chilling out on the beach, it's a pretty potent recipe for dynamite.

    People don't need a reason to really pick on you. People get their jollies off from bullying others and crowing about it after and we let them run amok under our noses for years. We foul and are first to cry foul.

    Times like this when we're forced to make a choice, maybe we will find some shred of integrity to achieve something for ourselves. Or maybe we will chop each other into little bits and it will all be over. Whatever, the strong man is overcome only by the stronger.

    we are in the struggle that people have fought since forever, to live our own lives without being done in by others. Do something to cheer us up. help out your neighbour and or!

    As much as muslims praise their virtues and curse the infidels, Islam isn't growing on me fast I did not choose it as my fsith and nobody is forcing it or sneaking it on me.

    I know what is right and wrong, don't need people cracking whips on me to see my own good. I like happy warm friendly I don't like hostile and cold and I know when someone has my best interest in mind.

    And I know when they are up to mischief on me too. and whatever people might want to blame me for, the accusers of every faith, I'm satisfied that I as a single person on the face of this planet am most certainly not responsible in any way for the centuries of atrocities that have occured on the face of this planet.

    You got a grudge it's the wrong door to lay it at. People's grudges ought to die with them and pity the fool who takes it up someone else's.

    I am not seeking to provoke others. I did my fooling around as a kid, let's talk about apple fights. We had fruit trees growing everywhere and had apple fights with the neighbours and it all got pretty hostile. but when we tired of it, apples still kept on coming for months afterwards. bang on the french windows and by golly was my father mad with us children! Yes! We were virtually forbidden from breathing for months, could not go out there into the garden until it all died down.

    Which it did after a year or so. But we were still enemies with our own neighbours in sunny suburbia. things just seem to get bigger and more uglier the further into the wilds you go.

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  • 123. At 10:23am on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mathiasen

    Re #102

    Whilst grateful for your decision to make some comments it is beholden on us to also make some reply.

    1) No one is "elegantly" or otherwise "ignoring" any of the reaction by Government Ministers, Faith Leaders etc. - we who support the Swiss referendum result - - however, do write on behalf of the Swiss Citizens who exercised their democratic right and responsibility at the weekend and whom you and others on lofty perches plainly regard with intellectual irritation.

    2) Neither do we "ignore the legal evaluations": We merely note that you and others of your opinion regard a Secret Ballot held in strict Democratic procedures as being subject to overturn by a Court of Law - - it would seem your adherence to 'democracy' and 'democratically' arrived at Vote result is a skin deep attachment. So, yet again (as with Lisbon) the Ballot result is not the one preordained by those in authority and thus must be set aside - - my, how we all admire your sense of fairness!
    Do let us know how the average Dane would react were a Referendum in Denmark to be over-turned by a supra-National Court (either ECHR or, heaven forbid, the ECJ!)?

    3) On the contrary our comments are littered with "reflections" on how the ruling elite establishment of the EU and UK along with Politically Correct individuals such as yourself have for decades developed Laws on matters affecting the ordinary Citizen without any consideration or consultation with those Citizens who are most affected - - I am willing to place any bet you care to mention there will be no Mosque or even a small Minaret built along the residential roads of Messrs Sarkozy, Merkel, Brown etc. - - "guarantees of religious freedom" are perfectly feasible and acceptable, but where are the guarantees for the majority of Citizens who also seek for their lives/society-culture not to be infringed?

    4) "No reflections... relations between Arab countries and Europe.."! It is absolutely right that the EU/UK must take account of the views of the rest of the World: Europe cannot live in isolation - - nevertheless, I must ask will Europe's Governments, Judao-Christian Faith Leaders, your goodself and others concerned with equality be making similar representation to Saudi Arabia etc. and making it clear there must be reciprocity of rights to Worship and access to Places of Worship?

    Do let us all know how you get on with that particular concern for Human Rights-Political/Religious Correctness!? In fact, whilst there you could mention a number of other Human Rights violations in the name of Islam!
    We are all confident of the concerned response you are bound to receive.

    5) I don't know about others but I actually read Ibsen at University - - some interesting work with at times unusual perspective - - however, might I suggest you do a little light reading too: Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man, and then there's Edmund Burke who wrote, "..Individuality is left out of their scheme of Government. The State is all in all. Everything is referred to the production of legality.. The State has dominion." (1796)
    You see, even back then it was noticed that the little fellow armed with his little vote was being profoundly ignored and often given a kicking by his/her supposed 'betters' about what was 'right and proper'.

    Well, uncomfortable as it may be for you and your lofty elite who know so much more than the common Citizen, the little Swiss voter just kicked back and insisted they would not be ignored!

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  • 124. At 10:32am on 01 Dec 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    #53 - Mathiasen

    "The result of the referendum in Switzerland is a disgrace and a democratic disaster"

    No it isn't. It is a result and that is all it is. If you are only prepared to ask questions of the people when you anticipate getting the 'right' answer, you might as well not ask the question in the first place. I find the contrast in these columns between those who complain that the Irish should not have been polled twice because they got it wrong the first time and those who admired the democratic process in Switzerland until it too threw up the wrong result revealing. Democracy is all fine and dandy so long as the voters give the right answer! Really?

    Our friend CBW suggests in a later post that I am neatly 'side stepping' the issue. I am not. Freedom of worship is fundamental to a modern democratic society and should be defended against all comers. The freedom to build physical manifestations of that faith is not fundamental. If you are a speed freak, you go to the race track to indulge your passion. You do not do it in the High Street. It may be a silly example but there is a direct parallel. So I say again, it is a planning question and planning questions are not best decided at national level.

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  • 125. At 10:36am on 01 Dec 2009, Jan_Keeskop wrote:

    cool_brush_work: On post 8, I disagree that Islam denies the possibility of free will (and thereby denies the possibility of other versions of life); see for example Qur'an 18:29. Which verse in the Qur'an commands Muslims to work towards reëstablishing the Caliphate?

    Do you believe that belfries in traditionally non-Christian areas would also be minor, but distinctly visible and audible expressions and representations of an intention to dominate?

    Me_rijn: In post 24, certainly minarets are not indispensable to the practice of Islam; Switzerland itself has dozens of mosques, of which only four have minarets, and none of those four minarets is used by muezzins to call Muslims to prayer. Given those circumstances, it seems as though a ban on minaret construction could not be reasonably interpreted as a violation of freedom of religion, or as a violation of freedom to profess a religion.

    For post 29, if an architectural distinction had to be drawn between a belfry and a minaret, I suppose that the main difference would be the balconies on minarets.

    In post 78, the comparison of eucharists to minarets isn’t quite the same, as eucharist consumption is part of a religious rite which takes place within a church, out of public sight, while minarets aren’t part of a religious rite, and are within public sight. Perhaps a closer comparison might be to roadside shrines to Madonna and Child? (In my view, a belfry would be most closely analogous.)

    ChrisArta: On post 31, I don’t know what the exact definition of a minaret is in German/French/Italian/Romansch, but for English the OED describes it as being connected to a mosque in particular, rather than to a church, a temple, or another building.

    In post 75, “the child” most likely refers to Christ as a baby in the manger.

    democracythreat: I absolutely agree with the last paragraph of post 40.

    On post 104, and your response to Mathiasen’s point IV., my thought was the opposite, that inhabitants of such countries might interpret the vote as “well, our country doesn’t allow the construction of churches, and their country doesn’t allow the construction of minarets, so is there really a fundamental difference between them?”

    threnodio_II: For post 45, one of the four Swiss mosques with a minaret is in a town of 5000 people, and the construction of that particular minaret (the other three are in large cities) was probably the trigger of the recent vote.

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  • 126. At 10:50am on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "If we use your logic that not having a minaret it violates a moslim's "freedon of religion",

    Then
    a moslim living in Switzerland not having more one wife violates his "freedon of religion"
    a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to kill an animal in his own house violates his "freedon of religion"
    a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to take every Friday off violates his "freedon of religion""

    Not really my logic, just the logic judges would probably apply.

    Now on your other examples:

    "a moslim living in Switzerland not having more one wife violates his "freedon of religion""

    He'd have to show that polygamy is part of his religion/culture. Still, as I showed restrictions on freedoms are possible if they can be justified: Switserland has a strong case against polygamy not against minarets. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the possibility of polygamy would be imposed on european states by the ECHR.

    "a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to kill an animal in his own house violates his "freedon of religion""

    This was my example. The solution is a balancing of rights and requiremnts and this would most probably be endorsed by the ECHR. A muslim can't simply kill animals in his own home in the name of religion.

    "a moslim living in Switzerland not been able to take every Friday off violates his "freedon of religion"

    This would be an interesting case, not sure if there is caselaw. It actually be a good thing economically because muslims would than work on sundays, making a true 24 hour economy one step closer. That's an entirely different matter though.

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  • 127. At 11:04am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #125

    Both comments you made about my posts are technically correct, I know what a minaret as well as the context of "the child" but I honestly thank for taking the time to comment. However what I'm saying in all those posts is that the ECHR can not possibly find anything wrong with the decision of the Swiss to have Mosques without minarets on the ground that a mosque without a minaret violates "freedom of religion" for a moslem living in Switzerland.

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  • 128. At 11:11am on 01 Dec 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @Mathiasen 116 - Did you see the result of the vote right below the article...

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  • 129. At 11:14am on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Well, uncomfortable as it may be for you and your lofty elite who know so much more than the common Citizen, the little Swiss voter just kicked back and insisted they would not be ignored!"

    The little swiss voter will stand corrected before the ECHR than.

    If you object to this, why did you ratify the ECHR than?

    If all that matters to you is 'democracy' even if blindly applied than we have no need of human rights do we?

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  • 130. At 11:14am on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    lacerniagigante

    #107

    "...it makes us aware of the amount of closet Nazis hiding behind the mask of 'democratic legitimacy' (remember how the Nazis won democratic elections)"

    You have to be kidding!

    From a Swiss Majority Vote in a secret ballot in Nov. 2009 to the Jan. 1933 Nazis!

    Have the round-ups begun? Is the first camp opening soon? The Nazis had Dachau up and running 2 months after the National Socialist Party joined a coalition Government in the Reichstag. They never 'won' a democratic election - - they were the largest Party but not a majority - - even after burning down the reichstag their 'vote' fell in the last Weimar Republic election. They got to be the 'majority' Party by banning others - - that word 'ban' being about the only connection between these 2 events.

    When those Swiss voters emerged from their "closet" to vote 'no' to the building of minarets they were focussing on a specific minority religious group within their community, however, I really cannot believe the majority of them were 'right-wing' never mind secretive supporters of fascism!

    It would seem to me to conflate a a Swiss referendum result that supports a ban on minarets with an extremist-fascist political group intent on crushing democracy is precisely the sort of wildly alarmist reaction more suited to the extreme elements of Islam that burn flags and effigies because a Danish newspaper publishes a few cartoons or shoots a Dutch Muslim film producer for making a film crtitical of some aspects of Islam.

    Yes, there are issues between the 'west'/'Europe' culture originating from Judao-Christian perspectives and the 'Islamic' culture: It would be very remarkable if there were not - - the former in general terms upholding liberal-humanistic views, e.g. equality of the sexes, individual choice; and, the latter generally advocating a strict adherence to a faith-based lifestyle that precludes many of the choices European Muslims find available in the western culture they now reside in.

    I really am not sure how or why you would suggest "taking inspiration" by operating a 'boycott' of Switzerland and/or its products as being the way forward for followers of Islam that might encourage the ordinary Swiss voter to change their mind: Would not such a reaction typify the extreme element within Islam and reinforce whatever fears/reasons/grounds the average 'no' voter of Switzerland had in mind in that secret Ballot?



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  • 131. At 11:14am on 01 Dec 2009, lowenergylightbulb wrote:

    European centralised government hate the Swiss system of self-determination by national referendum. The elite thinks it has soley the intelligence, priveledge and right to rule. Surely the freedom of a society is no greater than the political rights of the individual. The Swiss vote should be seen as a triumph of democracy in a world where the political rights and responsiblies of the individual are for the most part non existent. End game - world government - total control? The Swiss is still a democracy. The voice of its citizens is still being heard!

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  • 132. At 11:16am on 01 Dec 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    SB2

    I am a bit disappointed by your stubbornness and failure to engage in a proper debate. You used to at least be a little bit more flexible when debating on this forum, back in Mark's times. Now you're simply reminding me of a little child sitting in the corner with the arms crossed. You're no helping yourself, or your cause, with such behaviour. I remember you were anti-EU but I also remember you used to be educated.

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  • 133. At 11:24am on 01 Dec 2009, Polaris wrote:

    Cool_Brush_Work #8 sums it up well
    Had this vote taken place in the UK, I would have voted as the majority of the Swiss have. Not so much because I want a ban on minarets (although that is an issue) but more to signal our politicians’ and moderate Muslims in Europe, that they need to positively counter the Islamist/Fundamentalists’ agenda which is driving this division in society. We also need to understand that this is insidious, this isn't just a local issue- million's, if not billion's of Saudi, Turkish and I'm sure other Islamic countries, dollars are flooding into Europe to support the building of mosques, Islamist media etc., all to further their ideological cause. There is much deceit at play and we are waking up to it all too late I fear.
    It is high time we called a ‘spade a spade’ and recognised that many fundamentalist Islamic values are indeed incompatible with our Judaeo-Christian societies and that, simply, we won’t accept their presence in our society. It is for those who follow Islam and chose to live within Europe, to integrate into the society they live in and follow the laws of that nation- just as I would do were I to move to Saudia Arabia. The freedom to practice ones faith is an inalienable right, however, that right does not place a responsibility on non-Muslims to change their way of life or accommodate Islamic practice, such as Sharia laws or abhorrent cultural traditions. A stand must be taken on these types of issues and the Swiss have just done that.


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  • 134. At 11:28am on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #126

    Well that is why I say that relegion and freedom to practice it are one thing. Customs, cultural aspects, buildings etc. are something else altogether and I fail to see how the ECHR can possibly only pass judgement on some parts of religious peripheral things without getting itself bogged down to passing judgement on everything?

    I can think of many more cases related to religion that ECHR will have to deal with if it was start looking anything related to religion under the "freedom of religion" pretext. Cases of all male monestary, or all female monestary, not able to have female priests in the catholic religion or the orthodox (double issue here as a beard is required). And the list would keep growing, in my view the right to a religious belief is just that, not the right to anything else under the sun associated with that particular religion, so I hope you see my point.

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  • 135. At 11:46am on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    re "Had this vote taken place in the UK, I would have voted as the majority of the Swiss have. Not so much because I want a ban on minarets (although that is an issue) but more to signal our politicians’ and moderate Muslims in Europe, that they need to positively counter the Islamist/Fundamentalists’ agenda which is driving this division in society. We also need to understand that this is insidious, this isn't just a local issue- million's, if not billion's of Saudi, Turkish and I'm sure other Islamic countries, dollars are flooding into Europe to support the building of mosques, Islamist media etc., all to further their ideological cause. There is much deceit at play and we are waking up to it all too late I fear.
    It is high time we called a ‘spade a spade’ and recognised that many fundamentalist Islamic values are indeed incompatible with our Judaeo-Christian societies and that, simply, we won’t accept their presence in our society. It is for those who follow Islam and chose to live within Europe, to integrate into the society they live in and follow the laws of that nation- just as I would do were I to move to Saudia Arabia. The freedom to practice ones faith is an inalienable right, however, that right does not place a responsibility on non-Muslims to change their way of life or accommodate Islamic practice, such as Sharia laws or abhorrent cultural traditions. A stand must be taken on these types of issues and the Swiss have just done that."

    Seriously dude. There is nothing fundamentalist about mosques or minarets. Trying to impose or apply the Sharia is something completely different from building a minaret. Why don't you lose the islamophobia and see that the Swiss not only make fools of themselves but are in flagrant breach of their international commitments.

    This has nothing to do with fundamentalist islam. Because even moderate and integrated muslims would like a minaret on their mosque.

    And it's quite a good thing of Arabs send money to Europe for building mosques: it creates employment over here!

    Europe and European can not brag about their cultural and philosophical achievements and their freedoms and their rights if those achievements, rights and freedoms are only reserved for 'traditional' (whatever that means) Europeans.

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  • 136. At 11:49am on 01 Dec 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    #133 - Polaris

    ". . . Sharia laws or abhorrent cultural traditions".

    Abhorrent to whom? Just because it does not happen to coincide with your faith system does not make it abhorrent. If you believe in the principle of free liberal democracy - whatever that may be - the idea of live and let live comes with the package. However, when people decide for whatever reason to live in a different cultural environment from their own, they assume an obligation to comply with the laws and customs of the society in which they choose to live. That isn't a matter of principle. It is simple good manners.

    You do your cause not good by dismissing other philosophies of life as abhorrent. If we are serious about living in a multicultural multiracial society, then we have to accept the rights of others to believe as they think fit but, in return, they must comply with certain minimum standards which come as part of the residency package. Sometimes mixed metaphors are appropriate - 'live and let live' and 'when in Rome . . .' are not incompatible to reasonable people.

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  • 137. At 12:00pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Jan-Keeskop

    Re #125

    You disagree with my #8 comment on 'free-will' denied by Islam.

    I refer you to 'al-Ahad' (the "One"), absolute unity. In sharp contrast to the Christian conception of the Trinity. The "One" cannot be divided, nor diminished or "humanised" by incarnation.
    Thus, Islam then goes further with 'al-Haqq' (the "Truth" or "Reality") and to 'deny Him' is not permissible nor possible.
    It does not stop there: 'He' is 'al-Alim', the "omniscient" who knows everything in the heavens and earth, and at times 'He' is described as 'al-Khabir', the "all-aware" or 'al-Shahid, the "Witness" and as such 'He' is attributed with being the "Owner of hearing and of sight".

    Of course, human nature being weak Muslims fall by the wayside like any other sentient being: However, 'He' is also 'al-Wakil' the "utterly reliable" for as the Prophet Muhammad regularly said, "There is no power and no strength except with Allah" and "..do you not see (Qur'an) that Allah hath created the heavens and the earth with the Truth... like a picture-book of the Creator's making.. to remind us of His power, His majesty, His beauty.."

    To sum up: God of Islam is transcendent, the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator and Lawgiver. Man is 'His' creature and 'His' servant into whom 'He' has breathed a portion of 'His' "spirit".
    Muslims worship 'Him'.

    Now, I don't know about you, but that seems to me a fairly all-embracing claim to being the only thing on earth that should matter to any Human being!

    So, let me cement that view with a reminder He is not content with just that, He is also 'al-Awwal', the "First" before whom there is nothing, and 'al-Akhir', the "Last", after whom there is nothing, whilst naturally that also make Him, 'al-Khaliq', the "Creator".

    You tell me: Is or is that not laying claim to no other "versions of life" being permitted?

    The "Caliphate": Without going into too much dialetical analysis I think you have to consider the Islamic Faith as regarding itself as the only Religion and therefore it sees as its course of action the spreading of Allah's Word to every corner of the earth to the exclusion of all other Faith.

    So, Judaism and Christianity are seen as 'monotheistic' religions (only 1 God), but Muslims regard the Jews as having falsely appropriated the 'Universal Truth', claiming it as the property of one, single people, while Muslims argue Christians distorted the 'Truth' through the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.
    In the Islamic view, the "Message" transmitted via Prophet Muhammad represented, not a completely new Religion, but a corrective to the falsifications-distortions-errors which had taken place over time and, Muslims believe at the same time, their Faith is an uncompromising re-assertion of the pure doctrine of the One God.

    Literally, as I wrote in #8: "..There is no dispute - debate - delegation of authority/power.." and therefore, "..the Faithful Muslim has no option but to obey and work towards its establishment.."

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  • 138. At 12:03pm on 01 Dec 2009, Freeman wrote:

    "Abhorrent to whom?"

    Anyone who thinks mutilation of youngsters' bodies by some sicko religious nut is a bit off?

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  • 139. At 12:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    threnodio_II

    Re #124

    Quote, "..if you are only prepared to ask people questions when you anticipate getting the 'right' answer, you might as well not ask the question in the first place."

    And, that is different from the 'democratic' outlook and policy of the EU in what way exactly?

    Is it not very noticeable and not a little scary for you on this topic how so many 'pro-EU' like Mathiasen (whom you normally find common cause with) really are arguing that as the 'answer' was not the 'right' one therefore 'democracy' must be circumvented!?

    To my mind the number of 'pro-EU' who openly write of dismissing the 'democratic vote' of the Citizens bears out much of my opinion that the EU is a very dangerous entity for Civil Liberty.

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  • 140. At 12:12pm on 01 Dec 2009, KateHowie wrote:

    Sharia law is barbaric and has no place in a western society and is a reason many muslims want to live in a western society - they have no more desire for sharia (civil or criminal) Than I have for a return to canon law.

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  • 141. At 12:31pm on 01 Dec 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    WA;

    "You :o) - owe me much more."

    OK yes I do. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. And one for your cat...to share with your dog. Will that be freedom fries with that? Hot apple pie?

    One thing the Euro-left and the American left who place all ideas, dogmas, religions, philosophies on an equal level of value is that for many Moslems, Islam is not just a religion but also a political movement. As a political dogma which asserts its right to replace all existing doctrines and dominate all mankind, it is intolerable. Those who advocate it, who incite or practice the voilent means it insists on to prevail are our mortal enemies and it is very dangerous for us to ingore that fact because of the liberal demand for political correctness. Fort Hood was just one of countless examples of the consequences of that attitude on our part. But even as a religion, it insists that it can freely prosteletyze its dogma to non Moslems but the penalty for Moslems who choose to convert to another religions is death. That is also intolerable. If Islam is to peacefully co-exist with the non Islamic world, it will have to adjust its views to accomodate it and it must begin with the clerics who preach it. They must decide among themselves what type of relationship they want with the rest of us and if they don't make that decision, their followers must insist that they do or make it for them. Otherwise the conflict between Islam and the rest of humanity will only escalate. In this regard, the Swiss have shown greater clarity of thought than most of the rest of us.

    dt, so you would not buy US Treasury bonds but would put your money in a Zurich bank? So would I. It's probably safer there. So long as you don't lose your account number.

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  • 142. At 12:32pm on 01 Dec 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    cool_brush_work

    Regarding your post #139,

    the people you talk about likely center-left pro-EU -> Labour, PD, SPD etc.

    Unlike in the UK, in most EU countries you can be centre-right as well as Pro-EU.

    So please don't put us all in the same boat. I'd hate to be one of them.

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  • 143. At 12:48pm on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #139

    I don't think there is any need to confuse the EU with minarets :)

    Other countries deal with the same question differently, for example to my knowledge in Greece they don't even have a mosque in Athens lets alone one with minarets, they didn't have a referendum there as far as know. So, I could use that as an argument to prove to you that referendums are not needed :)

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  • 144. At 1:00pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    ChrisArta

    Believe me: I am not confusing the 2 issues at all.

    1, is an issue about the 'democratic right' of individual Citizens in a non-EU Nation to express through a secret ballot vote their opinion on a matter that has been put to them by those in Government and to have their decision irrespective of its implications honoured-respected and acted upon by those in authority.

    A 2nd issue is about the 'democratic right' of individual Citizens within an EU Nation to express through a secret ballot vote their opinion on a matter that has been put to them by those in Government and to have their decision irrespective of its implications honoured-respected and acted upon by those in authority.

    I fail to see any confusion there.

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  • 145. At 1:15pm on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "ChrisArta

    Believe me: I am not confusing the 2 issues at all.

    1, is an issue about the 'democratic right' of individual Citizens in a non-EU Nation to express through a secret ballot vote their opinion on a matter that has been put to them by those in Government and to have their decision irrespective of its implications honoured-respected and acted upon by those in authority.

    A 2nd issue is about the 'democratic right' of individual Citizens within an EU Nation to express through a secret ballot vote their opinion on a matter that has been put to them by those in Government and to have their decision irrespective of its implications honoured-respected and acted upon by those in authority.

    I fail to see any confusion there."

    You have a very very poor vision on democracy.

    As I said before, if you stick to your logic, we'd end up in a situation where:

    the (democratic) means justify the end.

    And in the end it still is quite relative, as places likes Bern, Geneve etc have voted against a ban on minarets, now these people living in metropolitan cities (not in some mountain village in the east of switserland) are getting a village mentality imposed on them. How 'democratic' is that?

    Seriously, read some books on western philosophy. Why don't you start with Rawls: a theory of Justice and his critique on utalitarianism.

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  • 146. At 1:31pm on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #144

    the slight difference here is that one country uses a referendum to deal with citizens concerns the other country does not use a referendum but still deals with its citizens concerns. The end result is the same for both countries either in or outside the EU.

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  • 147. At 1:33pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    I am just curious how people view Ms Boehmer, the German Immigration Minister's proposal for an 'Immigration Contract' with new arrivals in Germany.
    It is aimed at any new would-be immigrant and requires among other things a certain commitment to Germany's culture and to learning the German language.

    If such a thing were put to a Referendum in Germany and a majority voted in favour, but someone decided to oppose and test it at the European Court of Human Rights - - would those majority Germans feel aggrieved or just shrug their shoulders and forget about a new Law proposed by their own National Government - - then again, even without Referendum it seems likely to come into force quite soon in Germany.
    So, if we are going to have the ECHR deciding such issues as 'minarets' then it does open the way for a challenge to every Law that a minority feels uncomfortable or disadvantaged by, and any democratically arrived at policy could in theory be overturned, couldn't it!?

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  • 148. At 1:35pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    I don't think this issue, or issues like it, should ever have been put to a referendum. When they are your have people who are prejudist against the particular idea who seek to influence the voting, not everyone votes and the issue gets distorted away from the facts being decided.

    You see it in the debates happening in Scottish and Welsh politics, the issues being decided get lost behind the basic ideas of nationlism and unionism and people don't make their vote based on the facts.
    With a political decision like devolution it's not so much of a problem and it can be avoided by responsible measures, but when there is a fundamental equality issue being decided it's much harder to keep the debate relavent to the question being asked.

    As an example, what would have happened if we had called a referendum on the civil partnership law? The decision would probably have caused much more controversy with campainers on both sides potentially causing alot of bad feeling on both sides and there may have been a very poor and discriminatory outcome.




    Anyway, whats the difference between a minaret and a church bell tower?
    In a purely material sense, nothing.

    Theres a really annoying cyclical argument that happens with this issue.

    1) You can argue that Churchs have been around for years and the minarets are relativly new.
    2) Then why were churches accepted? Because a large proportion of people were Christian? Plus a church used to be the centre point for the local comunity.
    3) Ok then why ahouldn't we allow minarets? Alot of locals are Muslim and go to the Mosque, its a focus for a significant number of people from the local comunity.
    4) Then those of you against the idea just go back to point 1 and we continue the argument.

    If there was a new church being built it would probably have clock tower with a massive cross on it and the bells would ring on the hour etc. Thats much more of an impact on the local comunity than a minaret.

    As long as they are well designed and in proportion with the surrounding buildings (something that will be dealt with when they seek planning permission for it) whats the problem? If it is an eyesore then its the local councils fault for not dealing with the planning permission properly.

    Surely we have more things to worry about than whether the local mosque will have a minaret or not.

    I personally think we should try to distance ourselves from all religions, I believe they bread segregation of comunities, incourage veiws that discriminate certain groups, incourage people to think Ill of people who don't believe the way they do and cause health, education and justice problems because of their influences on peoples opinions (The fight against aids and the teaching of evolution being good examples).

    But, and it's a massive 'but', we should never treat 'any' recognised religion differently to 'any' other. Just because it's relativly new to our country doesn't mean Islam should be treated differently to Chritianity or Judaism.



    Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, isn't that one of the most fundamental rules our country follows?

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  • 149. At 1:40pm on 01 Dec 2009, ioannis wrote:

    The issue here is whether such decision as banning the construction of minarets could be deemed as an action against religious freedom.
    In first sight someone could easily argue that, yes,this a case of a religious abuse and a move against any form of civil rights.
    Nonetheless there was no banning neither on practicing Islam nor on constructing new religious buildings-mosques.
    I think that the minaret affair is a far more profound dilemma.
    The question is, what kind of europe do we seek to create.
    Do we seek to iniolate the old european culture and replace it with a new one inspired by the principles of the new world or do we look in
    integrating the new communities in an existing cultural frame?
    In simple terms what should change europe or the new comers.
    And I think the answer given by Swiss people is that europe is here to support a multicultural enviroment but not on the expense of a milenium of history, culture and architecture.
    Swiss people have voted for a european Islam fully integrated in western ideas.
    They called for the cultural integration of the immigrant population and did not entertain ideas for a country with two distict societies that would eventually clash with each other.
    The message demonstrated is that integration is the sole way and not cultural alteration.
    Europe is here to be transformed in a multinational multireligious society on the basis of integration with the existing rich european cultural heritage in architecture, law, free secular way of life etc.

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  • 150. At 1:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ChrisArta "all you need then is find an icon that helps and protects lotto numbers and then you pray in front of it and if this works - now I'd call that divine :o)))) " (approx. , what you wrote)

    and "So that you don't think I think so only about muslims it's the same with all religions for example Eastern religions WebAlice help here"
    (approx. :o) again forgot how to copy text here :o)
    _________________

    ChrisArtochka, one statement like that "an icon for lottery numbers" - and it is clear you are not a good Soviet child in the past who was run through compulsorty "Atheism" course - in both school and at university level.

    Because that - compulsory - for the whole USSR - course - included a chapter type "Defects of all world religions". Then you'd pass tests - are you aware of those vicious defects, religion after religion, or not.

    Now, for "Russian Orthodoxy" you clean fail. :o))))

    For one of the major drawbacks in it (differentiating it btw from Christian religions other) is "wealth is bad". There can't be an icon in front of which you pray for having money by definition. Ab-normal desire to be well-off is blaspheny :o)))).

    From the common Judo-Christan base all Christan religions take favourite points and extrapolate on them and high-light them. Russian Orthodoxy fancied to focus on "wealth is bad".

    Consequently, dear Communist party is working themselves to death, trying to extract recent slave masses in extreme poverty, a country of beggars out from the darkness and abyss, and then there comes a Russian priest and says "striving to be rich is evil. We are not for money born. You can shot me now but it is un-godly, un-Christian and un-Russian."

    What is that but treason of the country's interests, uprising against Kremlin politics and the "party line" - to Gulag immediately. :o)))

    Similarly, all the rest of religions were treated in USSR times.
    A Buddist. Sits in leisure, nothing matters, in the great scheme of events - excuse me, and where is your enthusiasm? Who will build Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-electric station?

    Muslim trends - a girl is to sit at home "behind the curtain". Oh lovely.
    And who will work? USSR is surrounded by the circle of enemies, capitalists only eager to snip a piece of the country - we have to compete to survive - and in the 30% of the muslim USSR population "females are not to study; females are not to go to work; their zone of expertise is family and housekeeping."
    To Gulag such priests.

    In effect, 350 million of USSR population, in 2 generations, were run through compulsory "Scientific Atheism" course. It was believed that it is not enough to separate religions from the state, but you have to actively teach people how to NOT be religious, because when you take out something (key major USSR religions - Russian Orthodoxy, Muslim (5 republics), Buddhism (Southern-Asian corner, steppe), Catholisism (Baltic States, Western Ukraine), protestants (Volga Germans and St. Petersburg), blend of Orthodoxy and Catholisism in 1 religion (Georgia and Armenia) - you have to offer something instead - or there is a vacuum, filled in by fringe small sects - so "Scientific Atheism" was given instead.

    Now that 20 yrs ago we began clumsily and awkwardly copying "Western democratic ways" - all religions heartily fought against for 70 years are back - and we are rapidly sliding back to medieval times.

    There is a "Christmas holiday" now, dear ChrisArta, in the Russian Federation - exactly in January, by Russian Orthodox calendar.

    And last 4 days the muslim republics within the Russian Federation are on hols - Kuiran-Bairam - Muslim major holiday of the year. Cutting sheeps throats in sacrifice. The main Muftiy of Russia did a swell address to all Federation muslims on the main channel state TV, congratulating all with the lucky day, and saying quite a long nice speech about many aspects other.
    Religions are back to the USSR.

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  • 151. At 1:46pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    I think from most of the contributions on here we can safely conclude a lot of reading has been done by many.

    Thanks for all the advice, but this Christmas I have asked Santa's little-helper - - Ms cool_brush_work - - to find a copy of Milton's 'Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Commonwealth' (as my old copy is nowhere to be found).
    Being a simple romantic in return Ms cwb is very likely (I must whisper this) to receive a very handsome edition of Donne's 'Songs and Sonnets'.

    Might I humbly suggest to all those who've so kindly offered me hints on reading that Thomas Hardy's 'Far From The Madding Crowd' is the sort of worthy tomb for those suffering the angst of 'tragedies and disappointments' as their Laws seem peculiarly supportive of mind-sets that disagree with the Indiviudal and the strong Female!

    Cheers.

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  • 152. At 2:07pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    There is a massive misunderstanding of Islam shown in some of the posts here. People jump on examples from extreme sharia law in countries where it is only used as an excuse to keep people afraid (Somalia and the Taliban being the most commonly used examples) and use it as a reason do discriminate against British or European Muslims in general.

    It's like taking the example of an anti abortion evangelical Christian who shoots an abortion surgeon and calling all Christians murderers. Or using the Jewish extremist groups that exist to define a normal British Jews faith. It's pointless, baseless and frankly quite naive.

    There are many different branches of Islam as there are with Christianity. Some have much less in common when it comes to religious practice and beliefs than Catholics do with and Mormons. It's something that should be dealt with in schools. Religious education should be much better so the next generation understands other peoples beliefs to the extent that they can avoid generalisations, incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings about their faith.

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  • 153. At 2:16pm on 01 Dec 2009, threnodio_II wrote:

    #138 - Freeman

    "Anyone who thinks mutilation of youngsters' bodies by some sicko religious nut is a bit off?"

    Yes - which is precisely why I added the bit about complying with the laws and customs of the host nation.

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  • 154. At 2:20pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Meanwhile, as the ECHR seems to have grabbed a lot of attention I thought would enquire about another aspect of this legal entity, the EU and Islam.

    Today, much to my chagrin, the Lisbon Treaty was actually officially placed on the EU Statute book.

    Swedish PM and presently in the Chair for the 6-monthly EU 'presidency' Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt has declared, ".. when we make decisions concerning citizens freedom, security and justice..." He backed this up by reference to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights that as part of the LT becomes legally binding for all EU institutions. He said, "..We make clear equality between men and women and protection of children's rights within all policy areas."

    Fantastic! Democracy and Human Rights firmly at the centre of the future EU.

    So, I can look forward to the EU informing the followers of Islam resident within EU borders that contracts fixing arranged marriages between couples who are under-age and indeed child marriages are illegal, that females must be allowed to worship in the same rooms as males, that no female may be forced to cover her face in public, that more than 1 wife is illegal, and so on...

    What's that?

    You mean to say the EU already says all those things! Only they are never enforced because of respect for the religious-culture difference.

    Well, excuse me, but has anyone ever thought to tell the Muslim community about this new reinforced Charter of Fundamental Rights? As it is clear, is it not, these are all areas the ECHR must now take a very serious look at?
    I only ask, as before Muslims get on street demonstration mode about another 'injustice' to Islam, had anyone pointed out these new Rights-Laws do not only apply to the majority Judao-Christian Citizens, as has so often been the case upto the ratification of that splendidly liberating Lisbon Treaty!?

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  • 155. At 2:40pm on 01 Dec 2009, Freeman wrote:

    "153. At 2:16pm on 01 Dec 2009, threnodio_II wrote:
    #138 - Freeman

    "Anyone who thinks mutilation of youngsters' bodies by some sicko religious nut is a bit off?"

    Yes - which is precisely why I added the bit about complying with the laws and customs of the host nation."

    True but just because it happens overseas does not mean I cannot find it abhorrent (It would no doubt happen here as well if certain Islamist loonies thought they could get away with it). I know this is not very PC but I refuse to celebrate diversity when we reach that side of Islam. Just because they are not in Europe does not mean I cannot find it abhorrent.

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  • 156. At 2:46pm on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #150

    Thank you WebAlice, no I never had the "honor" to be educated in the Soviet system, but it does sounds fun :)))

    If they had thrown in some "anti-miracles" it would had made the lessons so much better fun to part in :))

    That story I liked, WebAlice thank you!

    Now on Gulag issue

    Did they sent the christians, moslems, buddhists, etc. all to same Gulag, or different ones depending on the particular god one believed that would come down and rescue them?

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  • 157. At 3:02pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    From the practical point of view, ChrisArta, imagine for a sec that there is an icon "for lottery tickets" - and it does not work.
    The reprecussions!!!!!
    The consequanes of it !!!!
    It , why, undermines the very pillars :o)))) One might expand this un-lucky one off happening on wider, how to say, perceptions, about holy matters - scary to say.

    Lovely to see how Russian Orthodox church the modern one is playing up to the "modernised new times" :o)))))
    Now (after Perestroyka) since we are friends with the West - it is apparently more or less alright, to be more or less approximately well-off - well - LACKING, still LACKING, several essentuals, of course, a look of a totally happy chap not missing any thing is digusting. But, like, say, a modestly well-off is more or less acceptable. not advertising one's state of well-being. Modest, modest about it! :o))))
    Remember - it's all God's providence, if one suddenly turns rich. None of the matter of his own hands' making. But, say, sometimes it happens (God's providence) to some un-lucky Russians :o))))) (the wealth) - and -what can one do? Only endure, endure this painful unnatural condition :o)))

    Still, the population remembers what's the core idea (may be courtesy of Scientific Atheism in-depth study :o)))), check the joke below:

    A Russian oligarch dies and arrives to St. Peter's gates, where St. Peter is fumbling with the keys, to be sorted out where to be sent - to Hell or to Paradise.
    Now, God looks into his credentials, and writes him out a direction - "kwittung" - "To Hell".

    The oligrachs says "Oh. No! Please, how come - I was donating to churches money so much a lot, please check it again - there must be a mistake!"

    God says, "Yes, yes yes, don't worry, all correct, the money will be returned to you now; - to Hell!"

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  • 158. At 3:05pm on 01 Dec 2009, tesho wrote:

    The Swiss Government is scared of security risks, it seems.But what about the many Islamic countries which couldn't care one hang about security when they ban ANY Christian building on their territory?

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  • 159. At 3:08pm on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "What's that?

    You mean to say the EU already says all those things! Only they are never enforced because of respect for the religious-culture difference."

    Guess you are wrong here.

    The EU might say it adhere to human rights and freedoms, but the EU doesn't have competence to enforce the examples you gave.

    The competence to enforce all that still belongs to the Member States.

    Ouch! Better read the Treaty before you start blaming the wrong political entity!

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  • 160. At 3:34pm on 01 Dec 2009, laila wrote:

    I am sad for the result, i think that Europe is living an identity crisis and there are always the others to blame for Europe problems yesterday the Jews now the Muslims. When the fascism and Nazism appear in Europe there was no Muslim presence so it is a private European debate.

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  • 161. At 3:53pm on 01 Dec 2009, Chris wrote:

    #160

    Would you care to explain how banning minaret building and nazism are on a par?

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  • 162. At 4:00pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Obviously Mr Reinfeldt had not read the Lisbon Treaty as he is clearly under the impression, "..we (the European Union) make clear the equality of men and women and protection of children's rights within all policy areas.."
    Difficult to see how such a definitive statement used in conjunction with an assertion of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights then has any meaning at all?

    Oh but of course, it's the EU version of 'protecting' a Citizen's 'safety' and 'rights', so, no change there then!
    Apparently, we are to be blessed with 2 Legal institutions and a Charter no less of rights - - an ECJ and an ECHR - - unfortunately they will only apply those Principles and Laws when suitable to big-business/big-Government.

    Once more, EU Democracy in action: Warms the heart, really it does!

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  • 163. At 4:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, laila wrote:

    First of all we have to accept the differences between us we do not think in the same way, something ok for me is not necessarily ok for you and vis versa.

    I think if we are going to justify the minarets ban by the Islamic laws believe me there is no Jewish temple or a church or a Hindu temple will be built, excuse me but look to the Jewish laws or the regime of casts in Hinduism, with all my respect to all religions, believe me no one is perfect.

    I am a Muslim woman and believe me that 99% of Muslims do not know nothing about girls circumcision because it is a tradition not an Islamic law and fore forced marriages it is against the Islamic law even the prophet ordered a man to let his daughter marry the man that she love. There is a huge ignorance about Islam in the west.

    The west is always giving us lessons in the respect of others cultures but in reality he is trying to impose by many ways (war and diplomacy) his way of thinking.

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  • 164. At 4:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Re:cool_brush_work

    You show a fairly good knowledge of the Muslim faith, I'm genuinely suppressed and impressed that you've bothered to learn something about the religion unlike most people who speak against Islam. The problem is you show a great misunderstanding of the faith and of the people who follow the faith.

    Most of the comments you make about Islam could very easily be transferred to Judaism or Christianity. The problems you raise are part of all the Abrihamic faiths, mostly born out of the violence that was prevalent in the times and regions where the religions originate. The thing is, anyone with a brain can see that the letter of the law of the Bible, Koran etc. isn't really the way to live a fair and morally acceptable life and very few religious people do live by the literal letter of the law. Of course there are extremists in all religions, and Religion gets hijacked by governments, freedom fighters and terrorists the world over and has been for thousands of years. However, as I've said before, you can't blame a moderate British Muslim or even a devout British Muslim for the extreme examples of sharia law or the distorted view of Islam that is, unfortunately very publically, portrayed by the extremists of the world.

    You and I would probably agree on a great many things about the problem with organised religions in general. Where we disagree however is that religions and specifically in this case Islam should be legislated against and have their religious practices restrained by the law. Of course where religion and the law are directly opposed then the law should not be changed. There are cases where it's fair for laws governing certain practices be altered slightly in the interests of fairness and to avoid discrimination (for example the crash helmet laws with Sheikh men, the old Sunday trading laws back when the majority of Britain was Christian or the less clear cut, and more controversial, halal meat regulations). However nobody is going to seriously consider bringing in laws about wearing of turbans for all British men, the compulsory wearing of veils for women or banning all non Kosher food.

    It's not just religion that changes the law like this, look at the laws surrounding civil partnerships and going back through the last 100 years or so, votes for women, removing the laws against homosexuality, abolishing slavery etc. the list is endless. Laws evolve, they always have and they always will, hopefully a lot of the time in the interests of equality and fairness.

    As a slightly left field example, what about the bilingual road signs in Wales? Do they threaten and discriminate against non welsh speakers? Or are they a reasonable alteration in the law, to accommodate a native language that is unfortunately only spoken by a minority of people in Wales. What about the removal of the law stopping children speaking Welsh in schools?

    Anyway, on the main point of the debate, why single out minarets? Why ban something so specifically religious? As I've said before planning permission laws should be capable of keeping potentially inappropriate minarets from being built. If we do that we should ban all other overly religious towers and prominent religious symbols, which would be almost completely wrong in every way.

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  • 165. At 4:16pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Has anyone here ever seen or read 'V for Vendetta'? Look it up if you haven't, it's well worth a look, manages to make an important political point behind the fight scenes and anarchist ideals.

    Watched it agains recently and it's scary how much further down the road of the films plot we have gone recently.

    I just hope the quote from the film, 'There's something very wrong with this country isn't there?', doesn't become a reality.

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  • 166. At 4:39pm on 01 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @162. At 4:00pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Re "Oh but of course, it's the EU version of 'protecting' a Citizen's 'safety' and 'rights', so, no change there then!
    Apparently, we are to be blessed with 2 Legal institutions and a Charter no less of rights - - an ECJ and an ECHR - - unfortunately they will only apply those Principles and Laws when suitable to big-business/big-Government.

    Once more, EU Democracy in action: Warms the heart, really it does!"

    Of course the EHCR is not part of and not even related to the EU. So why don't you include the US Supreme Court, another legal institution of the EU, in your tirade against the EU as well?

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  • 167. At 4:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, megawatts7100 wrote:

    From the following website: http://www.churchisraelforum.com/the_dhimmi_jews_and_christians_under_islam.htm

    In Muslim lands, the construction of new churches and synagogues was generally forbidden. The restoration of certain pre-Islamic structures was permitted so long as they were not enlarged or transformed. Dhimmi (Jews & Christians) places of worship were often ransacked, burned or demolished at the whim of the Muslims. This trend has continued right up through modern times. In Saudi Arabia, the government bulldozed the last Christian church in the kingdom in 1987. It was a unique 12th century structure found near the Yemen border.

    Liturgical forms were strictly controlled. It was generally prohibited to ring church bells, sound shofars (ram's horns used in Jewish ceremony), publicly display crosses, icons, banners and other religious objects. Early photos taken during the middle of the nineteenth century confirm that even the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem had been stripped of both its cross and belfry.

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  • 168. At 4:46pm on 01 Dec 2009, Sheila Arjun wrote:

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  • 169. At 4:51pm on 01 Dec 2009, Sheila Arjun wrote:

    I do not understand why the UN should concern itself with the minarets issue. ARE THEY WILLING TO TAKE IT UP WITH THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT AS TO WHY THERE ARE NO CHURCH SPIRES IN SAUDI ARABIA? If not they should stay out of it.

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  • 170. At 4:57pm on 01 Dec 2009, Wonthillian wrote:

    If I were a radical Muslim, would it make me more or less radical if I had to practice my religion in a port-a-cabin rather than a purpose-built mosque complete with Minaret?

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  • 171. At 5:25pm on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Colonicua42

    Re #164

    Thanks for acknowledging I have, albeit I readily admit a modest understanding of the Islamic Faith.

    Perhaps I should begin by making it quite clear I have absolutely no Religious inclination at all: I regard the whole World as blighted by these philosophies created in what can only be described as a dark age mentality of superstition and fanaticism. That some, a precious few, within the early ranks of these believers thought and wrote immensely impressive ideas on the State of Mankind is undeniable - - but then, you would expect by law of averages some to get it right in amongst all that deluge of mindless, unquestioning collectivism.
    That is not say I do not admire many great and learned people of Faith and/or the magnificent inspirations of music, art and architecture that emerged from them - - only I would attribute all of them to the greatness of Humanity and not to some mythic deity.

    The points you raise in your riposte to my contention that Islam is a Faith that brooks no challenge is however, something I cannot agree with.
    Particularly your contention that it is possible to transfer the main tenets of the Islamic Faith to other World religions.

    When the Qur'an claims the religion of God is Islam, given to Adam, the first man and the first Prophet of God it does not leave room for doubt. The name was chosen by God Himself and is clearly mentioned in final scripture - - the final revelation (Qur'an) states unambiguously:

    "This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion." (Soorah al-Maa'idah)

    It is the 'submission (and is often literally translated/interpreted to mean "surrender of will") to God' and the over-riding requirement to worship the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship (e.g. as Christians do) in any form that separates Islam from all other forms of Faith.
    Not for nothing do Muslims proclaim, "There is no god but Allah." Belief in this declaration of Faith requires that a person submit his/her will to God in the way taught by the Prophets.
    At every moment and in every way a Muslim is bound to their Faith in an unquestioning manner that no other Religion commands of their followers: So, "..For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah," (Soorah al-An'aam) is not a request for an attendance on a Sunday morning or evening plus the occasional charitable donation, no, it is 5 times a day and no exception.

    We Humans may try to rationalise our way out of it: And clearly, as in all religions, there are Muslims who have sought to move the pillars to fit a little more comfortably with particular situations and there is legitimate debate among some Islam scholars as to the exact interpretation to be placed on this or that tract/teaching/saying etc.

    However, all of that is as nothing compared to the fundamental adjuration to all followers: 'Submission to God'. When a Muslim is born their 'Fitrah' (in-born belief in God) is subject to the environment they are raised in like any other Human, but only in Islam are they unable to ever consider another way but Allah's way.

    On the 'minarets': I assume the Swiss Citizens decided to make a point that they consider such symbols an unnecessary intrusion into the accepted lifestyle-culture of Switzerland. As it is a 'democratic' decision arrived at in an entirely 'democratic' manner and with a very clear 'democratic majority' supporting the ban then I would suggest followers of Islam must look for other ways to develop the architectural adornment of their places of worship in Switzerland.
    Indeed, as I wrote near the start of this missive, Faith has often led to great architecture - - who knows, maybe there is a wonderful Human/Muslim mind already bent to such an enlightening task!

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  • 172. At 5:26pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    167. At 4:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, megawatts7100 wrote:

    I dont see how any of that is relevant. Just because another country or group of countries have discriniatory views on religions doesn't give us the excuse to do the same. Following that logic would it would be ok for the following;
    black african having white european slaves,
    women stopping men voting,
    shock therapy to 'convert' hetrosexuals,
    the banning of English being spoken in welsh schools,
    genocide of white blonde people by Jews,
    removal of white american/white australian children to reformation schools run by native-americans/aboriginals,
    etc.etc.

    Discriminating because someone discriminates the opposite way never works. An eye for an eye just ends up with everyone being blind.

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  • 173. At 6:47pm on 01 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Re 171 cool_brush_work

    You raise some good points. Indeed I would echo your views on organised religion, possibly with slightly more diplomatic language though. I'm in no way criticising religious people, you can believe whatever you like and it's fine by me, I dont understand it and probably never will, but I don't think ill of people for it. Where I do draw the line, is predjudice based on religious views, thinking of people as sinners or judging them because they disagre with you beliefs, or fall into a particular group which your religion discriminates against is wrong.

    Religion in my opinion is a form of primative science. You have people asking the universal question 'Why?' and comming up with the only logical answer available without the scientific knowledge we now have. this then developed into a way of life and rituals to keep the various gods happy were formed. This then evolved into the monotheistic religions, it does seem to make more sense for there to be a single force or entity that caused everything. It's not a bad thing necessarily, untill people start using religion as an excuse for wars, persecution etc. etc. Organised religion in my opinion is wrong, completely, it divides, excuses and above all else controls. But anyway that argument is for another time.

    I'm still not convinced by your point of Islam being any different to the other Abrihamic religions. Take the ten commandments for example, if I remember correctly 6 are all based around worshipping no-one but the 'one true god'. I may be wrong on the numbers but the basic idea is that no-one but god is worthy of worship. Even taking the other commandments into consideration they are 'commands' from god. Ok they may be morally perfectly sensible rules to live by, but they are still a 'command'. I've no doubt there are numerous other examples of the 'word of god' being the word of the law. Even if it's not the specific intention of the Bible or christianity for the words of the Bible to be the letter and the law, that is the way Christianity used to work. Punishments used to be literally translated from the Bible, witch burning for one, and most are the same or worse than the extreme sharia law punishments that are carried out in some parts of the world. The problem is if you live your life by one set of rules i.e. religion, and see those rules as fundamental to your life and unbreakable then the laws of the country you live in start to take second place.

    Hopefully the worlds religions are on the decline, as Christianity has across europe. Once we get rid of the rediculous idea that someone deserves to be punished for doing something which goes against a book that was written hundreds or sometimes thousands or years ago (usually something that hurts/effects nobody but themselves) the better the world will be.

    Those views shouldn't ever mean the discrimination against a religion or group of people, that way you just commit the offence you are criticising the religions for comiting.

    Everyone is equal and everyone should be treated equally.

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  • 174. At 6:53pm on 01 Dec 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 36 CBW

    "Of course neither I nor anyone else on here, no matter how educated, intellectually gifted, politically astute and claiming superiority of rational thought processes could possibly know the outcome of referenda on 'slavery' in the 1860s or 'segregation' in the 1960s!

    We need only look at Switzerland's referendum result on Minarets to actually become aware that no one 'knows' the result until the last vote has been counted.

    It is called the 'democratic' process..."

    What is it with Europhobes? You dare to query the possible and occasional limitations of their hobby horse (and the hobby horse of the hard right), i.e. referendocracy, and they accuse you of being a fascist or, god forbid, a communist.

    Well, there are different opinions on the issue, not just yours or mine, some of them here on the beeb:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8388776.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/8388793.stm

    But this is what the 'democratic process' according to the Europhobe hard right (which, incidentally, accounts for the single largest group of Europhobes) is about:

    - Asking the Irish to vote twice after giving them legal guarantees to address their concerns gleaned from public surveys on the reasons for the no vote on the first instance : "NOOOOOO!!!! THAT'S UNDEMOCRATIC!!! They forced them to keep voting (one hundred times) until they said yes. "

    - 26 democratically* elected parliaments ratifying the LT : "NOOOOOO!!!! THAT'S UNDEMOCRATIC!!!, even worse, it's a treason, a EUSSR conspiracy..." (*plus one elected by the FPTP)

    - A 1975 referendum that took place in a European country to remain in the EEC. "NOOOOOO, THAT'S UNDEMOCRATIC, we was lied to, we was robbed"

    - A vote by the Swiss people to ban a particular architectural form that happens to be associated with a religion that they (the Europhobes) hate because 'it threatens our way of life' – "YEAH, CHEERS ALL ROUND, now that's what we call democracy!!!!"

    So I am reliably informed that there's going to be a new entry in Wikipedia which defines the 'democratic' process according to the Europhobes:

    "A process where every man and his dog gets to vote ONLY ONCE (cos we say so) and its result is only consider democratic if we, the Europhobes, like that result."

    Have your cake and eat it, for a change...

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  • 175. At 7:34pm on 01 Dec 2009, Polaris wrote:

    Re: #135. At 11:46am on 01 Dec 2009, Me_rijn136.
    Read my post again please- you missed my point Me_rijn, it isn't just about the minarets, I believe this vote was more about their rejection of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamist ideology in Switzerland- note I use word fundamental and Islamist- I am not referring to mainstream moderate Islam. The Swiss within their system voted and made a statement which needs acknowledged for what it is and their government and moderate Islam need to work on the issues which led to this vote.
    And, you're naive if you think money from Saudi and the likes isn't compounding the issues we have- creating jobs indeed!
    threnodio_II re# 136
    I don’t have a faith system and I don’t reject moderate Islam as a life style, I do reject, along with many moderate Muslims- fundamentalism and the Islamist ideology that would have us change to accommodate their ways which are alien to our European culture and values. We are in fact agreed on many of the points you make, residence in Europe does indeed come with certain obligations and ‘minimum standards’- that is essentially my point. As I said, in my post, “. It is for those who follow Islam and chose to live within Europe, to integrate into the society they live in and follow the laws of that nation”
    Live and let live? Yes indeed, if it were that simple.
    Sadly, in some fundamentalist Islamic groups there are behaviours, beliefs and customs we as a society reject, they run against our values and laws and are increasing with the spread of more fundamental Islam- they are indeed abhorrent in our society. These issues are not always part of Islam but somehow survive in Islam and some national cultures. The mentality that justifies honour killings or mutilations, forced marriages, abuse of women and a lower value on human life are all part of the issues we are facing and it needs openly challenged by moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike- as we are doing to a certain extent in Britain over forced marriages and honour killings. If we continue to sweep these issues under carpet we won’t get anywhere and the division we already find in society will just get wider.
    And Me_rijn- as for your accusation of my Islamaphobia; I live much of the year in an Islamic country and I tell you, my views regarding what is happening in Europe are moderate by comparison with many of my close moderate Muslim friends here who see it for what it truely is.

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  • 176. At 8:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ChrisArta "did they send Christians, moslems, buddhists etc. to one and the same Gulag or to different ones."

    Now, that's a gloomy subject, because priests of all faiths (I know it's un-correct to call 90% "priests" but I don't know English for them, so excuse me shall keep to "priests") were also live people, but honestly don't know. I'd think roughly, when you get to a Gulag - it makes LOL no difference!

    Europe chose to tolerate all religions; at least that was the official "ad".
    USSR in 1918 chose to get rid of all religions as was in need of "quick and effective" solution, being indeed pressed much for time - by internal factors (Civil war. quite enough troube threatening to collapse the country) and external pressure (in case someone forgot, may just have happened :o) Finnish intervention, Polish intervention, British intervention and, basically, we had "all flags" circling around and denting in a piece here a piece there. not decisive enough for a major deep cut in, but snipping on the sides). Then came the need to build infrustructure and fix oneselves, also no time for internal religious quarrels. then this and that :o)) industrialisation, 2nd WW, when again Kremlin badly needed folks united not dis-united. Then came American nuclear threat and armament race, and that's how it went no coffee break to stop and think about religions. :o)))

    So yes they sent to Gulags all priests of all faiths in masses and bombed out (not literally) all priest teaching "schools", to ensure new generations of priests won't be brought up.

    Very few "church buildings" survived (again, of all religions), just some were left for decorative purposes, and in order to be able to say that "USSR is not against religions" (though it was, ardently), they are simply "separated from the state". So, how to say, 2-3 samples of each religion, in terms of buildings, per city, were left as acting churches.

    In St. Petersburg, for example, worked in its real function Alexander Nevsky monastery (Russian Orthodox), 1 Mosque, 1 Buddhist temple, 1 Sinagogue, 1 Catholic church. Evangelist and the Anglican were converetd one into an opera hall and the other into some insititution premises.

    And the bulk were converted into warehouses, cinema-s, subway station halls, swim-pools, skating rinks and what not. Which was a lucky outcome, in terms of architecture preservation, as many charming nice old ones were simply blown up to small ashes. Now we are in return process, restoring and building back again all so effectively destroyed before :o). You take skates, go to a skating rink - hop! church again. "For a week already" :o))))
    You go to a cinema - it's not anymore cinema, hop - church again.
    Soon I suspect I'll go to the subway - and there is no subway! :o)

    All became so much religious again dear me. Yesterday's communists stand in the churches with serious looks holding a candle in hands. :o)))

    While, by the look of the comments on this thread - we are again out of tune with Europe :o), where the plate on the weighs swinged in another direction.
    Judging by what people write here - many of them - Europeans are well fit to take exam on "Scientific Atheism" any day tomorrow :o)))
    Except, remember, it has to be "scientific" - that is you need to study religions in depth before you make the sudden summary at the end "That's how and why they are all wrong!" :o)))

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  • 177. At 8:18pm on 01 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    cool_brush_work (No. 8): Bravissimo! I fully agree with you.

    I don't entirely disagree with the way Mr Hewitt summarised the substance of the issues and launched the debate. It fact, it is quite effective.

    Allow me to add the following: Central to Christain teaching (although not to Christian practice, which has unfortunately all-too-often deviated from the actual precepts of Jesus) is the idea that Virtue cannot be imposed: it must be chosen.

    Indeed, the salvation of an individual's soul is for that adult to be worried about, not the state.

    At the same time, most of the high points of European culture were the work of people who considered themselves Christian. Even the most cherished freedoms articulated by men such as John Stuart Mill, in his examination of Individual Sovereignty (the essay "on Liberty") were the result of specifically Christian effort. Mill himself, like Newton, like Byron, like Mozart, like Dumas, like Pasteur -- was a Christian.

    Because Christianity actually encourages peaceful coexistence with other religions (which is exactly the opposite of the Qu'ran), it is the societies that grew out of the lives of predominantly Christian populations that are most vulnerable to the deception that "everyone is basically nice and you just have to let them be so we can all be friends."

    Meanwhile, their plan is completely different; they are taught something entirely different -- the exact opposite, in fact -- from birth.

    The New Testament says, "If a Christian woman marries a non-Christian, she should stay married to him and not try to change him, but remain obedient and faithful even while following her own faith." That was the original recipe for a happy marriage, according to St. Paul. "If a Christian is a slave to a non-Christian master, he should still obey him" -- and so forth.

    But in Islam, if a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim, an "honour killing" is called for.

    It is time to do the sensible thing, rather than attempt to reconcile ancient texts which some on one side find holy and the other side mostly rejects.

    The sensible thing, as cool_brush_work says, is quite obvious: if you choose to move to another society, for whatever reason (as my parents, for example, did twice), you embrace the prevailing culture of the new home.

    You EMBRACE it.

    In the US, where there is room to spare, it is easier for a Krishna community (for example) to acquire land sufficient for the celebration of their festivals in a suitably grand style. This has been done, by many different communities.

    Europe is comparatively small, densely populated, and compact. Switzerland is not big at all. If someone wished to celebrate a Hindu festival with all the appropriate pomp, elephants, giant chariots and so forth, it is likely they would meet with some local resistance from people who would say, "Excuse me: we are not in India."

    And that is part of the deal when you come to live in Europe.

    Make up your mind where you intend to live -- and when there, live accordingly.

    And, by the way, yes: women and girls and children all have inalienable, inviolable human rights. That, by the way, is a guarantee of the UN Charter: the one leading Muslim from Libya recently tried to shred in the General Assembly, that every Muslim member nation has signed.

    No religious belief system, anywhere, can trump or abrogate the essential, guaranteed freedoms and rights of women and children, under universally recognised and accepted international law & UN norms.

    That is not even to be discussed.

    It is not the French that are to be challenged for objecting to hijabs or burkas -- it is the communities that still believe they can defend these mediaeval symbols of a woman's captive condition as someone else's property, to be kept apart from any personal contact with others, to be hidden away from the rest of the world.

    No man on earth would ever put up with this kind of requirement! Yet we are still being forced to defend ourselves to fanatical Muslims -- who will not hesitate to throw eggs at the most prominent Muslim woman in the UK for rejecting sharia -- in 2009, for demanding that they wake up and take note of the fact that the same international documents that protect their freedoms, also protect the freedoms of women and children.

    The hypocrisy must end. Immigration is not a free pass to conquest. The streets of a city are part of the public space; they can be zoned, planned and administered in a manner that is consistent with the preferences of a majority of the public.

    In the city of Carmel, California, for example, or in Beverly Hills, there are very strict rules in place about what may be displayed, how large brand logos may be, how the sidewalks of the city are to be kept up. No exceptions. No discussion.

    Nothing is preventing Muslims living in Switzerland from setting their computers at home to the call to prayer coming directly from Mecca itself, if they wish. Within their home, within the scope of local sound ordinances, they can readily satisfy their own religious preferences. A minaret overlooking a Swiss neighbourhood, so that everyone all around can pretend they never left Yemen, is, indeed, an unreasonable expectation, and an infringement of the rights of locals.

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  • 178. At 8:21pm on 01 Dec 2009, WorldCitizen wrote:

    It is my firm conviction that democracies strive with well informed citizens. When politicians and constituents are not well versed in a given matter democracies produce ridiculous, irrational results such as the ban of the minarets in Switzerland.

    Regardless of the effect of such a ban on Switzerland’s image and beyond any analysis, from policy point of view such a ban lacks any future applications. For example, if an architect draws a building not necessarily for any worship with towers on the side like minarets or just a building like a minaret standing by itself freely; will the Swiss authorities not grant construction permits for such buildings? Obviously, not, that is a permit must be granted since those towers are not minarets by definition. Now, the question is how such towers are different from a minaret? Moreover, when an attached tower or building to a mosque will be called a minaret and when it loses that connotation?

    I am appalled when I see poor policies such as the ban of an architectural building written on the constitution of a country. How in the world one can write the ban of a shape in a constitution? This is really an insult to the constitution and to the human mind.

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  • 179. At 8:40pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    WA, et al,

    I think "whatever Threnodio II said," that is what I think about this. He is reliably on target on these matters.:)

    Also, your stories are so nice, Web Alice.

    "Where reason captured time, ...in no time at all he took me to the place, ..I checked the time, I was late, so, I returned to hear your wonderous stories, hear your wondrous stories, la la la la" (from Wonderous Stories")

    David

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  • 180. At 8:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    The main battles USSR had of course with Russian Orthodoxy and Muslim, as the two heavy weights, majority's religions in the country. Seeing how it goes, Evangelists, Lutherans (sorry, correction, the Baltic states are Lutheran, Catholics only Ukraine), Catholics, Buddhists etc. evaporated by themselves :o))).

    However must say that in the "come back" mode - after a heavy dose of sceptisism was injected into the USSR courtesy of "scientific atheism" - ex-USSR-ians, with a few sad exceptions - are not aggressive in their religious pursuit any more. Nobody heard of "radical islam" in Uzbekistan, Azerbajan etc - stan. So far, not in Tatarstan (inside modern Russia) - either. Though all are very ardently Muslim, in all looks and rituals - Tatarstan builds a mosque on top of a mosque, no free "un-mosqued" place soon will be left in the republic :o))).

    Look at the ancient Mosques in Uzbekistan - there is hardly in the world, well, in Persia? anything more ancient. Even that I doubt. Bukhara and Samarkand - as minimum - as old as Persian ones. And far older than Turkish, in Istanbul. Istanbul is Islam fresh new-comers, historical youngsters, compared to Bukhara and Samarkand.

    Now, who ever can imagine an uzbek in a bomb belt? I can't.
    How come? Only "scientific atheism"? I wouldn't lay so much hope on it. I don't know. But can't imagine Bukhara or a Samarkand chap in a bomb belt.

    Who I can imagine in a bomb belt is a Russian. We are looking now for the suspect in the Friday's terrorism train bomb. What's the suspects' description, as seen by the villagers nearby: a burly man, over 50 yrs old, white, red-haired.
    Red-haired - very rare in Russia.

    By all looks it's a Stalingrad/Volgograd man, who was blowing the same very train 2 yrs ago (unsuccessfully back then) and is still in Interpol search. He was fired from his vocational school in his 20-s, as planning to become a technician (must say it is hard to be fired from a "vocational/secondary institution in the USSR :o)))) requires a special skill :o)))) as any thing would pass for a "pass" :o)))quarreled with his teachers, quarreled with his relatives, became in search of better fortunes elsewhere, was talked to and consoled by some small radical islam sect, converted himself to Moslem faith, re-located to Chechnya, studied in several mountain institutions (schools set up on foreign sponsorship, from radical islamists' groups international) (where they study Koran half of the day, and the other half of the day train to put together mines) - and then was noticed in many interesting places blown up, during his following career in Russia.

    Because of his looks this converted monster passes through many traps set for him, but as we see is live and kicking. That's what specialised schooling does. Why do Islam branches run those schools? I don't know.
    Haven't heard of "Russian put-together a bomb + bible classes" together an "education institution". Who set that fashion, war and religion in one set? What's the plaque?
    Not a single religion formally preaches war. I hope?

    But such schools exist, and train terrorists. In Turkey - of nearest places - a plenty. Who is the author of this "invention"? I demand the playwrighter of the play - on stage!

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  • 181. At 8:54pm on 01 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #124. threnodio_II
    Searching through the blog, I notice that you have already used the code word „planning“ a couple of times. Albeit some physical planning is involved, it is not the main theme here. It has already been mentioned that physical planning is not a part of a constitution, and I can add to this that physical planning is not a subject for the ECHR in Strasbourg either. Human rights are, however.

    Which brings us to another type of planning: The legal. Let us not waste our time with silly questions like “is Switzerland allowed to legislate?” The sovereign state of Switzerland has legislation on religious freedom. It has also signed the convention on human rights. Finally, it often has referenda, and the voters have now decided on a rule, which brings the country in conflict with the convention. This is not planning but the opposite: Unsystematic legislation. Switzerland has a problem and will have to find a solution.

    PS: I am relieved to see the press comments on the matter, which BBC has put together on the web site. I recognize the European continent and its history in these comments.

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  • 182. At 9:06pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Maria Ashot,

    That is why we allow the Chinese "to invade us." (in the USA) Their Buddhist teachings are similar to Christianity, tho they came from..

    India, India which is ..difficult to comprehend, but made easier by Buddhism.

    (My brother got to "meet" the Dalai Lama--my brother and his wife live in Germany and they were lucky enough to take "a class from him"--I THINK it was Him)

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  • 183. At 9:10pm on 01 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    There is a profound irony in the way the Swiss reaction to Islamic faith spreading in their nation is being reported by this journalist (Hewitt) and by the media generally.

    Everyone presumes that the Swiss "fear" minarets. And yet, today we see an outright admission of real fear and cowardice from the Swiss foreign minister. She says that the rejection of Islam is a security threat to Switzerland.

    For this piece of profound cowardice, she is being ridiculed by her fellow Swiss citizens. And they have a point.

    It is not fear that leads a people to openly reject something they don't like. Quite the opposite. The Swiss aren;t afraid of Islam. They just don't like it. And they are not frightened of the security threat from radical Islam.

    Now think carefully about the logic of the Swiss foreign ministers position: Is there any real security threat from Muslims just because the Swiss public make a decision that offends some Muslims?

    If the answer is yes, then does that not prove, beyond any measure of a doubt, that there are legitimate reasons for confronting Islam?

    If the answer is no, then what is the foreign minster raving on about?

    What we are dealing with here is the politics of appeasement. The fashionable elite are frightened of offending the muslim world. The Swiss are not. The Swiss voter is drawing a line, and saying "Back off."

    And the media describe that as a "fear" of minarets. Shocking hypocrisy.

    This profound public cowardice is the defining trait of the elite political class. Tony Blair and his merry men were hysterical in their fear of Saddam. The USA political class has reacted to the threat of Islam by claiming to be terrified to their bones about the possibility of terrorist attack. The major justification for the continued war of terror is precisely fear itself: We are frightened of the terrorists. We are so frightened, we need to react to everything they do. We are so frightened, we need to give their cause unprecedented air time and attention. We are so frightened, we need to give them exactly what they want.

    I think this whole debate is evidence of a deep contempt for the general public by the media and the political elite in Europe. They presume the public react to things out of fear. They presume that the public is not rational and brave, but rather stupid and fearful.

    That is an enormous insult, and unforgivable when you consider who is doing the fighting on the ground in Afpak, and who is squealing about the terror and their fear of it in the media. It is precisely the common folks who have stepped up and said "I will go risk my life fighting this enemy." It is precisely the journalists and the politicians who have wet themselves with fright and who miss no opportunity to rave on and on about how terrified they are of the muslim "threat".

    But it is not just the hypocrisy and cowardice that disgusts me: it is the profound insult that is carried by implication.

    When Hewitt and Mathiesan and me_rijn and all the other self appointed elites presume that the Swiss voter is stupid and reacts out of fear, they are making a blanket statement about the intelligence of the Swiss voter. They are judging the Swiss voter, and declaring them stupid and ignorant. And fearful.

    That is a risky business.

    A lot of people are sick and tired of religion. A lot of people are sick and tired of being told what to think by priests and elite politicians sponsored by corporations. A lot of people are tired of second rate journalism from party hacks.

    These people are not stupid. Being an atheist and rejecting religion does not mean you are stupid. Rejecting Islam because you don't like it does not mean you are stupid and fearful.

    Fundamentally, a rejection of the Swiss vote is a rejection of the dignity of the Swiss voter. It is a statement of contempt for common people everywhere.

    This is why the Swiss say that in Switzerland the people do not trust the government, but that in Europe the government do not trust the people.

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  • 184. At 9:22pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    cool-brush-work, of "superstitions and fanatism".

    The problem with "cancelling religions" is you effectively "cancel" and attempt at people's culture. Something very dear to them historically, and their everyday life habits and traditions.

    religion - it is not only "superstitions and fanatism".
    not that easy.

    It did happen everywhere, that when most were illiterate - church folk were literate; when there were no "common books" - there were already church-related many editions, on different philosophical issues this and that :o), when most old building did not survive - churches survived and make up one's architecture and museums, when there was no "commoner'" art - there were already churches decorated.

    Ah what to say.
    One stroll through the Hermitage "Western European department" - and you can consider yourself graduated from a monastery school :o), on all Bible turns and subjects and themes. On this picture old men are catching Susan :o))) "Susanna" :o))) there is "vision of St. Augastus",
    St. Sebastian is simply every second frame pierced through at various angles, depending on artist's preference :o)))), and, how to say.

    I remember foreign tourists, when I worked for money in student holiday time, simply marvelled at the "quality of Bible knowledge with Soviet teenagers :o)))))) Because there isn't simply any thing - un-Bible - in the whole 2nd Hermitage floor! :o))))) A guide can't say a word on the 2nd floor which isn't "New Testament - Old Testament".

    So when you take away religion - as USSR did - there starts such a moan from all quarters dear me. Try to separate first own past from own religion in a country's past - three ha ha.

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  • 185. At 9:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #177, maria-ashot, and #183, democracythreat,

    I totally agree with your analyses of the situation, appeasing extreme views simply gives an impetus to the extremists and the Swiss vote and the reaction to it shows how stupid Europe has become. Why there is a discussion as to whether it is legal in the European courts is beyond me as they are, horror of all horrors, still independent. This reaction should be a wake up call as we are being submerged in a tide of political correctness and subservience, all in the falsehood of human rights. However the PC cozeners forget that human rights come with responsibilities as well, no responsibility to our society, no rights!

    Alice, sorry to hear of the train crash, I hope they find the moron(s) who caused it and that they pay the debt they owe your society for their imbecilic action.

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  • 186. At 9:50pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    democracythreat, I am sorry, when I was about to mention "healthy swiss egoism" I did have a fleeting thought "oh but Red Cross - what if it's theirs?"
    And yes :o(, as you confirmed, it is Swiss. Red Cross was a capital invention and a move ahead toward civilisation. I am sorry.

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  • 187. At 10:02pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    oj. they say Russia lost in the Strasbourg court the law case against Khodorkovsky today, that is his Jukos company won, its shareholders, grabatised from him - against Russia.

    To the sum of 100 bln dollars LOL or something :o)))))

    Looks like Strasbourg decided to bankrupt us :o))))

    me in particular, that'll be tax-payer money.

    well well well. I quite liked Khodorkovsky, until this day, that is....
    :o))))
    When the news get around the country - that because of Kremlin's free hand with rights of "foreign investors" - as that was the case formulation, and Khodorkovsky politica aspirations - Russians now owe to him and "foreign investors" a 100 bln.... :o)))

    it will be not un-wise to put additional security around his prizon :o)))).....

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  • 188. At 10:04pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    I basically feel how I am getting more and more mean
    every minute.... :o)
    someone mentioned here V means Vendetta :o)))))

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  • 189. At 10:17pm on 01 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Web Alice,

    "Don't get angry, get revenge"

    :)

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  • 190. At 10:54pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    stellarBeloved if true - arms in Iran guaranteed in 2 weeks.

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  • 191. At 11:04pm on 01 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    There is also a softer version - we pull out of deal with Europe to fulfil Strasbourg court rulings. That'll be a damn pity, because I always morally supported its decisions, when compensations are paid to Russian Fed. inhabitants, sufferes of un-fair treatment of the Russian state.

    I suppose Strasbourg ruled correctly now as well; so don't feel "mean" about Strasboutg. Not their fault, must be technically they are correct.

    On the second thought I think we should hold on, for a sec, our heavy hand :o)))
    and, simply, how to say, watch out in future that there are no oligarchs, no foreign investors :o)))), that nobody gets rich, and we are all hearty, nice and poor - exactly as prescribed by the Russian Orthodox church ! :o)))))
    No aliens, overly clever foreigners, all quiet peaceful homely :o))).

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  • 192. At 02:35am on 02 Dec 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    The Molsems will be able to fit a lot of minarets on top of that huge building in the photo in the previous thread about top jobs in Europe...when it becomes the headquarters of the Eurabian Commission.

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  • 193. At 02:54am on 02 Dec 2009, Richard wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 194. At 02:58am on 02 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    Marcus,

    You have softened. You must have found happiness:)

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  • 195. At 09:33am on 02 Dec 2009, mikewarsaw wrote:

    I live in a European country (Poland) where there has been an islamic minority for the past 600 years. It is well assimilated and fully integrated and follows a moderate form of islam. There are mosques but they do not have minarets as in the Middle East.
    I see no reason therefore that mosques are not built across Europe, where there are islamic communities. However the minaret itself can be perceived to be representating an "in-your-face" aggressive, militant, non-integrating, non-assimilating form of Islam. And that is what native european nationals, be they in Switzerland or elsewhere, are concerned about.

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  • 196. At 10:30am on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mathiasen

    Re #181

    "..I recognise the European continent and its history in these comments."

    Very laudable of you.

    Now, if you could bring yourself to recognise the right of a sovereign people having been asked a question by their Government to decide by secret democratic ballot how an aspect of their Nation's development will be administered it would be another positive step.

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  • 197. At 10:40am on 02 Dec 2009, Clas wrote:

    Sir,
    I am much bemused by the discussion on Swiss minarets, more specifically the concept of reciprocity in the context of banning religious architecture. As former diplomat of the EU based in Turkey and Albania, and currently married to a Turkish Ministry of Culture-official, I am somewhat familiar with the issue. I find especially astounding that several political leaders have criticised the Swiss people, based on the idea that a Muslim country like Turkey would never prohibit Christian immigrants to construct church towers of any kind. This is true only insofar as that there are simply rather few Christian church leaders left there: it is becoming a sad ritual in Turkey to assassinate Christian priests. Considering that we are talking about a militaristic/police state where even saying something mildly critical of the government can land you in jail, and consequently obtaining fire arms is almost impossible, the idea that deranged gunmen can go around killing priests without the collusion of the state is simply preposterous. Also, whereas the Swiss focus their uneasiness on newcomers who have little interest in integrating into Swiss society, Turkey goes far beyond that. In 1971 the Christian seminary at Halki, close to Istanbul, was closed down indefinitely. The ancestors of its inhabitants have been practicing Christianity in this area since the 2nd century, i.e. 1,300 years before it became Turkish territory, and can thus hardly be compared to non-integrated newcomers. Last but not least, here I have only discussed the most advanced and liberal of Muslim countries, and probably the only Muslim country which can ever dream of negotiating for EU-membership. Never mind Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan et al. where the building of Christian church towers would probably be more restricted, if not outright suicidal.
    Yours truly,
    nykvicl

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  • 198. At 11:08am on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #195, mikewarsaw
    Surely then it is a problem with the perception of the religion and the lack of awareness of religion not with the religion or the minarets themselves.

    #196, cool_brush_work
    Then I suppose you would think it fine if a country decided to ban homosexuality or at least public displays of affection between same sex couples. Banning minarets and banning same sex couples from kissing in the street, it's exactly the same principle. The problem is with the onlookers not the kissing or the people doing it, the same as the minarets and Islam not being the problem but the perception and views of the outside observer.

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  • 199. At 11:14am on 02 Dec 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Mikesky;

    "However the minaret itself can be perceived to be representating an "in-your-face" aggressive, militant, non-integrating, non-assimilating form of Islam."

    It seems to me a minaret is a very easy thing to remove...with an RPG.

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  • 200. At 11:16am on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    WebAlice

    Re #184

    Know what you mean about the Hermitage Palace - - magnificent display of cultural history - - stood in awe beside Catherine the Great's carriage thinking of her with a lover out one door and another stepping in!
    No disrespect - - the woman did what any powerful, robust man was doing then (and a lot today too, I suspect!) - - besides her contribution to Russia was far more than that hedonistic indulgence.

    Russian religion/faith did not die out for all the carnage and persecution of the communist era; of course, the 'opium of the masses' was conveniently reignited by Stalin for the Great Patriotic War and then stifled again. When I was first in USSR in 1972 it was noticeable how no public reference to religion was made even in Leningrad - - on my return in 1998 I was stepping over people handing out/selling relgious tracts in Moscow and St Petereburg, but in '72 I did not see anyone starving whereas in '98 it seemed a daily street event! Ah religion: You can light a candle and save your soul but it wont put bread on the table.
    Sad, anecdotal story for you (1998):
    When we were leaving by coach from our St.Petersburg hotel for the airport I had a lot of loose rouble coins - - as I queued with my bag an elderly, very thin lady walked up and down with her hand out - - the rouble was 35 to the 1 Pound, and I had maybe 100 roubles in change so I handed it over to her; I thought she was going to kiss me but clutched my hands, crossed herself, bowed, did it all again and stepped backwards still bowing... It was embarrassing and humbling... then I got on the coach and the driver said, "What did you do that for?"
    I replied thinking he was jealous, "It's okay we have your tip collected."
    He said, "No, no, that old woman will just go and buy a candle and pray to some Saint!"
    He may have been wrong: Perhaps it would put bread on the table or cardboard street corner where she lived, but it just shows 'religion' was never cancelled in the mind in Russia!
    Anyway, it seemed to me then and it still does now that 'superstition and fanaticism' about any spiritual idea is a strength and a weakness (and I guess, me, the coach driver, old lady and Joe Stalin thought the same!).

    Cannot suppose how 'cancelling religion' would be possible?

    As a firm believer in 'democracy' I have to allow an Individual and even collections of individuals to be as misguidedly concerned, indeed obsessed with their 'after-life' as many millions seem clearly to be. That is their choice.

    As a 'democracy' supporter all I would say is that, e.g. Iranians etc. voted for their Islamic Theocracy and therefore that is their business (and now it is dawning on millions of them just what a poor governance that is we should encourage them in their steps towards liberty of mind and body, but not get too involved); so, it is with modern 'west' States, who have moved away from 'religious' intolerance to celebration of 'difference' in Faith, Race, Sexuality, Political Opinion etc. whilst still giving due respect to those of Faith (e.g. rightly in my opinion, as in the UK, a Faith contribution to the 'political' debate via the House of Lords Temporal is allowable - - 'democracy' allows all opinion).
    For me this is the strength of the modern 'democracy': All-comers are allowed to flourish, but none has the ultimate decision (unlike States run on relgious lines where intolerance of another's Faith, Race, Sexuality, Political Opinion is rife, e.g. Saudi Arabia) - - and, the modern democracy encompasses and utilises collective decisions by the majority of Citizens with due regard to protecting the 'rights' and 'responsibilities' of minority groups.

    For so long as there is 'Faith' then its followers' views must always be taken into account when 'democracy' makes a decision: It seems to me those who oppose or are appalled by the democratic choice of the Swiss are forgetting that the majority have still given due regard to the minority (no threat to the general practising of their 'faith').
    Whereas if that minority had sway such consideration would be very unlikely given the evidence of present States prsenetly influenced or controlled by Islamic majority.

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  • 201. At 11:22am on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "#196, cool_brush_work
    Then I suppose you would think it fine if a country decided to ban homosexuality or at least public displays of affection between same sex couples. Banning minarets and banning same sex couples from kissing in the street, it's exactly the same principle. The problem is with the onlookers not the kissing or the people doing it, the same as the minarets and Islam not being the problem but the perception and views of the outside observer."

    Good point. But of course Cool Brush Work doesn't like these hypothetical situations, as these scenarios show that his understanding and his views on democracy are very shallow and poor.

    A breach of human rights remains a breach of human rights even when it has been endorsed by popular vote.

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  • 202. At 11:26am on 02 Dec 2009, mikewarsaw wrote:

    #198
    Its unfortunate that a militant, unintegrated and aggressive minority of members of the islamic communities across Europe have, through their behaviour, soured and frightened the peaceful majority of the european populations. Other religious groups, be they buddhists, hindus or followers of Confucius, etc.., behave peacefully and are well integrated. What is it about Islam that makes it so aggressive?
    That is why the minaret in particular is seen as a concrete sign of middle-eastern islam with its associated conservative features, including the aggressive militancy. Islam is supposedly a religion of peace. That is not the way it is seen in non-islamic societies which are on the receiving end of islamic terrorism.

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  • 203. At 11:34am on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    I refer to comment #9 on the EU Back to the Future article.

    It eludes me how anyone with such poor shallow, cruel views could possibly think they were 'fit' enough to discuss democracy.

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  • 204. At 12:17pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #201, Me_rijn

    React like that and people duck the issue and focus on your insult instead of the question being asked.

    Re:cool_brush_work

    Could you ignore Me_rijn for a second, I know it's difficult (they do like a rant), and give a response to 198. I just don't see where your coming from on this.
    Why is it different or why is it ok?
    Surely minarets are religion specific, so why is it ok to target one but not another?
    What makes it different to discriminating against an aspect of race, sex, nationality or sexuality?
    Surely a comprimise whould have been better and less divisive, limiting their size and giving strick design criteria (as with other building in a scenic spot) or make sure they fit the local environment while allowing them to be used as a symbolic recognition of the religion being practiced in the building. There might be places where they would be inapropriate full-stop, but that should be case by case, not a blanket ban.

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  • 205. At 12:20pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #202
    Precisely my point, we need to educate people about the religion and there needs to be stronger and clearer statements from world leaders and religious leaders that the extreamists are perverting Islams message for their own ends.

    As you say it's basically an image problem not a fundamental problem with the religion.

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  • 206. At 12:41pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 207. At 12:45pm on 02 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    cool-brush-work, you are not alone in giving loose change to polite and bowing to the ground babushka-s.
    We had Singapore here with state visit and granted showed him this and that and what not and lots of excellent no doubt very modernised factories and places :o))) and then media asks him So how did you like Russia (expecting some ordinary "balanced score-card" :o)) medium statement or the usual "wow Moscow has changed a lot, so booming and glistening!) - well the chap turned grave, took a deep pause :o))) and said "Yes, all are real, real bad."
    :o))))

    ?????
    - I've seen by subway entrances, in your streets, some very intelligent looking middle-aged women, selling on carton boxes their poor things,
    in their fifties; I spoke to some - they answered me in excellent English :o)))). You have women! in the street begging practically for money, for what is it, those self-knitted mittens - yes, I deeply sympathise with Russia, all is real real bad."

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  • 208. At 12:49pm on 02 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    colonicus42 writes:

    "Surely minarets are religion specific, so why is it ok to target one but not another?"

    For the same reason that it is OK to prosecute one known rapist, even if another is protected by vested interests.

    Follow the logic here: Yes, it is unfair to treat to miscreants differently. The rule of law says that everyone is equal before the law, so we expect the law to be even handed.

    But that does not mean you pardon every murder and rapist because one was set free by a corrupt judge.

    That is an extreme analogy, but the logic is sound. The Swiss did not vote to condone and encourage religious protelizing by non islamic faiths. they simply rejected the activities of the Islamic church.

    The argument that this is unfair to muslims is without doubt sound. It is unfair. There is no good reason why islam should be treated differently to christianity or judaism, or the worship of the flying spaghetti monster.

    It is, make no mistake, unfair.

    But that doesn't make it wrong. It certainly doesn't make it a denial of human rights.

    Everyone who claims that some grave wrong has been perpetrated here is essentially arguing that all criminals should be set free because some are set free. Either that, or they are arguing that the rights of an organized religion to advertise its business outweigh the rights of the Swiss public to make their own laws.

    This is why i take grave exception to the claim that the swiss acted out of fear, and that they have contravened human rights. They have not done anything of the sort. What they have done is place their own right to make law above the privileges of certain priests.

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  • 209. At 12:53pm on 02 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    201. Me_rijn

    "…A breach of human rights remains a breach of human rights even when it has been endorsed by popular vote."

    How are 'human rights' conferred except by popular mandate?

    What popular mandate confers, popular mandate can cast asunder.

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  • 210. At 12:55pm on 02 Dec 2009, Shaun Harvey wrote:

    This is a problem of ideology and nothing to do with a mindless hatred of people. I live in Austria where the fear of Islam is probably greater than it is in Switzerland and in many ways I would say rightly so.

    What is Islam if it is not sexist, homophobic and authoritarian? Before people say "but so is Christianity", which is entirely true, the big difference is that Islam has been politicised to a degree that makes it dangerous. Christians by and large do not exist in Europe anymore and those that do are generally quiet and keep themselves to themselves and good luck to them but Muslims have yet to prove that they can do this.

    If the Muslim population can prove over the next few decades that it can function peacefully in a secular society, then by all means allow super mosques etc but when people are burning flags as a result of cartoons and killing artists in Holland, not to mention 9/11 then we in Europe should take stock before allowing further Islamic expansion.

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  • 211. At 12:57pm on 02 Dec 2009, Polaris wrote:

    #201 Me_rijn
    Can't you see this vote is a backlash and protest against the very points that mikewarsaw #202 makes so well in his post. It isn't about minarets for goodness sake, and it isn't our perception either- it’s the reality of fundamental Islam and the concerted push of Islamist ideology into our midst. It’s about the demands being made on the peoples of Europe to accommodate practices which are alien to our culture and often against our laws and values. Look into it please; see the calculated resentment being stirred up by the radical Islamist fringe in the UK and the Netherlands, consider the presence of madrassas’ in the UK funded by Saudi, which continue to indoctrinate children in Wahhabi Islam and Sharia. Is it any wonder that the Swiss have taken a stand; given half the chance I have no doubt most people in the countries of Europe would have voted the same way.
    It‘s a wakeup call to our Politian’s, theologian’s, community leaders, EU commissioners- indeed to us all, that we need to confront this issue head on- let’s put the PC brigade back in their box and have an open debate, lay our cards on the table, let’s make clear just what is acceptable in our societies and what is not. We need to answer this question- Just how far are we prepared to go to accommodate this newly assertive Islam and its ideology?
    This issue isn’t going to go away; this generation of Muslim’s are showing tendencies which are much more radical and fundamental than their parent’s generation. An understanding needs to be reached lest we go don’t a dangerous path, the consequences of which I hardy wish to contemplate.

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  • 212. At 1:08pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re ""…A breach of human rights remains a breach of human rights even when it has been endorsed by popular vote."

    How are 'human rights' conferred except by popular mandate?

    What popular mandate confers, popular mandate can cast asunder."

    You are right, purely legally speaking. But still, the Swiss also endorsed the Human Rights enshrined in the ECHR and they agreed to the jurisdiction of the ECHR. So if they want to "cast asunder" they should denounce the European Convention on Human Rights, if they don't they must accept a possible condamnation from the ECHR.

    Morally speaking: One simple rule really says it all:

    The end doesn't simply justify the means and the (democratic) means don't always justify the end.

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  • 213. At 1:22pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Can't you see this vote is a backlash and protest against the very points that mikewarsaw #202 makes so well in his post. It isn't about minarets for goodness sake,"

    If it isn't about minarets, why vote on a ban against minarets?

    I see your point and indeed this is a wake up call. This doesn't mean however that his wake up call is not in flagrant breach (imho) of human rights. And, again in my honest opinion, I find it disgusting that a whole group of moderate and modern muslims are being punished by 'an angry majority that wants to give a signal'.

    What's even more depressing is that a lot of people here think that just because this ban was achieved through referendum, it should be approved of.

    Even according to their own shallow logic on democracy this can not be defended as the turnout was 55% with 57% in favour, meaning a minority of 31% of the Swiss expressed their support for this ban and in some regions (the western regions of Switserland) a majority was opposed to the ban.

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  • 214. At 1:49pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Colonicus42

    Re #196 / #198 etc.

    Happy to oblige (and thank you).

    To save time in typing: All my reference to Europe includes. EU/UK.

    Not sure if you have picked up on exactly my view of this whole affair.

    I do not argue the ban on minarets is a good thing: I do argue it is a legitimate decision by a sovereign People of a sovereign Nation.

    At a personal level I am very concerned by the increasing intrusion of Islam into the traditional largely Judao-Christian based European culture. I think there is little doubt this was also reflected in the votes of the Swiss Citizens: However, it must be remembered a fair portion of the Electorate also voted against the ban - - clearly not enough were persuaded by the debate prior to the referendum.
    Is that a weakness of 'democracy' or a weakness of arguments used? I submit to get the 'no ban' majority the democratic arguments that preceded it cannot have been made effectively and in a 'democracy' the Citizen's vote is paramount. Do not blame 'democracy' for the fallibility of your debating points on behalf of the 'lost' cause.

    I am equally concerned at the 'Islamophobia' also on the rise in Europe.

    It seems to me that I have already covered the issue of 'majority choice' and 'sexuality' etc. in various other responses, but to clarify:

    Democracy requires the support of the Citizens; there is no true democracy if at certain stages the 'clever', or 'more informed', or 'elite' decide they know best and act on behalf of the Citizens without gaining their consent/approval. Why have a 'vote' in anything if each time the 'better informed' dislike the outcome they dismiss it?

    Now, of course in a true democracy that 'elite' deciding the 'majority' got it wrong in a matter does not occur: There will be additional debate (as we are doing now), Citizens invited to reconsider their point of view etc. Processes set in train for a future 'democratic' choice to be made (much as the 'pro.EU' argued so vehemently was the case with the 2nd Eire referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - - though I am bound to say I profoundly disagreed with that particular 'political' argument, however, I shall not digress!).

    Striking down/out the Citizens' vote by use of an appeal to a Legal Court is the way of the USA and its Supreme Court. The Americans seem content with that constitutional system: However, we the have to ask why were the Citizens invited to participate if their input is then eradicated? Is that genuinely an expression of 'democratic' Law and Order, or the exclusive imposition of an elite's narrow, esoteric view of what constitutes good Governance?

    Whether it be a ban on minarets, homosexuals, abortion etc. and, personally I would unequivocally support/vote no ban on any of the 3 - - but, in the true democracy I must set out my arguments and win over my electoral support for my point of view - - reliance on a Court to come to the rescue of my opinion is the antithesis of 'democratic values'. The issue is how to persuade the Citizens of the right course of action?

    You cannot pick and choose your 'democratic values' - - personally, it seems to me the ban on minarets is entirely acceptable as an expression of how far that Swiss society wishes to go on its toleration/celebration of a National multi-cultural experience. In my view it is not a correct decision, but what right have I or anyone, except by legitimate debate/discourse, to dispute the Democratic Electoral decision taken by the Majority of eligible Citizens? If I disagree then let me work towards a change of the 'majority' view but save us from recourse to the Courts who represent a fraction of society and must inevitably be drawn from a select number that cannot reflect 'democratic values' in their allegiance to a framework of Laws. The USA Supreme Court makes Law and Europe etc. is moving that way - - to my mind the inevitable narrow interpretation of Legality must also inevitably narrow and come to neglect the democratically arrived at views/democratically supported polices of the Citizen electorate - - I submit no National and/or supra-National Court would, "defend to the death my right to say what I like" (Voltaire), but they would all by Legal definition support the persecution of me for what I have to say.
    Democracy is far more than upholding Laws: Judges are extremely educated, able Citizens, but to allow their supreme authority and power above all else is to abandon all other Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities to decide for themselves. To let their 'honourable/worships' learned deliberations conclude for us all what constitutes correct behaviour is to say we do not place our trust in 'democracy'.

    In the 1940s-50s in UK and much of Europe the argument for acknowledging sexual inclination was won by a democratic majority; debates still arise (re 'gay marriage', again fine by me), but as there is no evidence of a serious backlash among citizens ('homophobia' being part of the society and as repugnant as any 'islamophobia') - - arguments remain to be won by those who believe minarets should be allowed - - it is how democracy functions.

    True Democracy must be flexible and include Law that is also able to incorporate changing social-political-cultural outlook whilst holding fast to basic democratic principles of fairness and justice to all Citizens of whatever disposition within a Society. It is the magnificent strength of English Common Law that it operates in just such a manner unlike much that has evolved in Europe. That said, Europe has evolved due legal process and most Europeans seem content by its function - - whether they will remain so as more and more of their Citizen-Electorate Rights and Responsibilities are overturned by a Court remains for the future to reveal - - for surely, if as some argue on here, the ECHR may intervene in the Swiss decision then will not Swiss and others ask, "Why ask me to vote on a matter if you will not accept the outcome?".

    In the end I am not competent to judge Swiss Law, but I have an opinion on its 'democratic' values and processes and it seems to me the Swiss have acted according to sound, basic democracy whether the 'better' in its society or elsewhere like it or not.

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  • 215. At 2:26pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Re:214

    I think you hit the nail on the head with,
    "Why ask me to vote on a matter if you will not accept the outcome?"

    I think in any democracy we have to accept that we vote peopl into power to make decisions for us, so we don't have to look at the fact figures of ever single decision that gets made. We may not have faith in that system and we have the right to say something about it. It's not perfect but thats basically how it works.

    With that we have to also agree that there are some decisions that should not be made according to popular opinion or referenda. There are many examples of where this is true of decisison that have been made in the past. I'm sure if there was a referndum of speeding fines and punishments we wouldn't end up with a safe and sensible solution.

    I feel that this issue is one that sould fall into the last category. There is a fundamental principle of fairness and equality at stake, and I'm disapointed with the decision. The sad fact with any referendum is that the specific question gets lost in the yes/no campaigns and peoples opinions are effected by issues which are not relevent to the question. Being Welsh I've seen this alot on the devolution issue which I have very strong views on.

    The point of democracy isn't that the people decide everything. It's that a group of elected people decide everything after taking all factors into consideration, sometimes they have to make an unpopular decision for the right reasons. Where there is a fundametal change to the way of life in a country then a referendum may be a good idea, with the smaller or more complex issues, especially sensitive ones, it probably isn't.

    In this case I do feel an unfortunate line has been crossed.

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  • 216. At 3:21pm on 02 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    colonicus42, you have utterly failed to convince me of anything with your last post.

    All you have said is that representation is better than direct democracy because, taken all around, representation is better than direct democracy. And then you added the additional argument that the reason representation is better than direct democracy is because it is, for better or worse, better than direct democracy.

    You wrote:

    "With that we have to also agree that there are some decisions that should not be made according to popular opinion or referenda. There are many examples of where this is true of decisison that have been made in the past. I'm sure if there was a referndum of speeding fines and punishments we wouldn't end up with a safe and sensible solution.

    I feel that this issue is one that sould fall into the last category."

    Read that back to yourself. Honestly, was it worth saying?

    You think... no, you FEEL... you feel people can't be trusted to vote sensibly on laws pertaining to speeding fines,..... THEREFORE democracy is worthless and elites are the only people who can be trusted to make law.

    Huh?

    As it happens, the German autobahns have a very, very low rate of fatal accidents. And as it happens, government taxation through speeding cameras is a point of great concern for those who feel they are being squeezed by corrupt political revenue raising exercises.

    NEVERTHELESS...... Switzerland is a German speaking country that borders on the autobahn loving german nation, and the people have not proposed to make their own highways unlimited by speed restrictions.

    Lo and behold, the scumbag people who can't be trusted actually have more regard for speed restrictions that the mighty german empire of representation by wise and glorious elites.

    So even in you hard and fast example of where the people can't be trusted, you are talking, with respect, complete nonsense.

    You "feel an unfortunate line has been crossed", do you?

    Well I think you have chosen to draw an unfortunate line. You have drawn a line between "the wise" and the common people, and you stand there with your arms folded and your brow furrowed and tell yourself it makes you wise.

    Everything you hold dear, every advance of modern technology and every legal freedom from oppressive feudal society, every single one of these things you owe to the constant desire of common men and women to be treated with dignity and respect, and not to be subject to the rule of elites.

    And yet you bother to believe that :

    "we have to accept that we vote peopl into power to make decisions for us"

    If that is the case, how dare you write your own opinions on this blog? You think your own opinions are not worth the same as your beloved political party representatives opinions, and yet you DARE to come here and lay them down as if we common rubbish folk should listen to you?

    Why should we listen to you when you know even less than political party representatives?

    Is there a hierarchy at work here? They are better than you and you obey them, so that makes you better than us?

    Are you the masters pet, colonicus42? If you roll over and do as your told by authority, does that give you the right to tell the rude children what to do?

    If you don't know enough to make your own decisions about issues in society, then say nothing. If you haven't the desire for the dignity of all people, please refrain from exhibiting the desire to tell the lower classes how to behave.

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  • 217. At 3:26pm on 02 Dec 2009, JohaMe wrote:

    Suppose a mosque is built that looks exactly like a Christian church. Would it's bell tower be a minaret and thus forbidden?

    Would minarets that look like Christian church towers be allowed on mosques-that-look-like-mosques?

    Would minarets be allowed in an Arabian Nights family park?

    Would minaret-like towers be allowed on newly built Christian churches?

    Is it clearly defined in Swiss law what a minaret looks like?

    My feeling is that this law will probably cause more problems than it solves.

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  • 218. At 3:41pm on 02 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Friends, friends, friends: what a nice, inspiring, spirited debate you have been having.

    I agree with cool_brush_work and actually with Marcus Aurelius (for a change).

    If democracy & sovereignty are to mean something, we have to play by the rules. People voted. In California, people voted to prohibit "gay marriage." Lots of Californians up in arms. All kinds of attempts to get around this vote.

    But there it is. You want to change the results? You have to do it according to the established processes. Otherwise everything becomes moot; people stop feeling like they ought to pay taxes; the social fabric becomes frayed... before too long, you have hate crimes and anarchy setting in, and then another Hitler emerges, somewhere, with a following ready-made or disgruntled citizens who felt their votes were ignored -- and things deteriorate even further, quickly.

    Look, whenever I watch a woman reporting for the BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC from Iran or Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan or Jordan, she is shown with her head covered.

    Why?

    Because these countries require that all women, even Western women, reflect the prevailing belief that any female over the age of four or so hide her hair, cover her head and show "submission" -- that is the actual term for it -- to their customs.

    So why can't we, in our lands, require that they refrain from building a certain type of edifice that alters the appearance of our public spaces and the landscape?

    I would be maybe more willing to see minarets in Europe if they did something smart for a change, as a quid pro quo: like remove the four minarets they added to the Hagia Sofia complex, and restore it as a Byzantine Cathedral, which is what it was when they marched in and flooded it with the blood of the local populace they slaughtered. All this was happening as the Renaissance was gathering force in Italy: no, it was not too long ago. If we can speak of Rafaello, Botticelli, Leonardo as influences on our modern age today, we can recognise that the Hagia Sofia belongs to someone other than the current curators (doing a poor job, by the way), and ought to be returned to the Patriarchate that it rightly belongs to.

    That would be a sign of "Muslim tolerance for Christians" that maybe more Christians would see as a positive overture.

    Unfortunately, Muslims require "submission" and operate out of a mindset that there is some kind "entitlement" their culture possesses to all sorts of bending-over-backwards to please them (that no one else gets), from non-Muslims.

    Have you ever heard of Christians lighting up an old woman for converting to Islam? Well, in Bangladesh, a 70-year-old woman has been burned alive by a mob for converting from Islam to Christianity.

    And yes, that does not exactly make Muslims look tolerant or civilised, now does it? Have yet to come across a single word from any Islamic cleric or leader condemning such an atrocity.

    democracythreat, you rail against "theocracies": but actually there have never been any.

    "Government by priesthoods" is not a theocracy at all.

    People who do not understand the finer points that define assorted religious traditions should not simply lump them altogether and say: "rubbish the lot!" That would be like saying there is no difference between Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Freedman and Bernie Madoff.

    And yes, we have people who also think that way, and would say: "rubbish the lot!" to all economics and the world of finance. These people prefer anarchy. They love nothing better than a tabula rasa of smouldering rubble from which they can then begin to re-invent the wheel.

    Except their wheel will generally have sharp edges and not roll smoothly, as was demonstrated by the tragedy that befell Russia in 1917, that we (meaning the whole world) are still paying for.

    Not all "Democrats" are Democrats; not all "Christians" are Christian; not all Muslims are fanatics; not all "women" are women, ultimately.

    The intelligent person has to constantly perform the essential operations of discernment. You can't lump it all into one mess just because it is "too complicated."

    If any of us are looking for someone to be with for the rest of their lives, we generally accept that 'just anyone' won't do. People are not interchangeable; neither are beliefs; neither are religions.

    If you were to peek inside the heads of three or four people Alice alludes to as "Russian Orthodox Christians" and compare what was there in the way of Faith & Belief to what is in mine, you may find one who actually is a close match to what I call "Russian Orthodox Christianity." At least one other would be a hopeless tangle of ideas I would be aghast at; two would probably be somewhere in between.

    Yes, if push comes to shove, and that "lunatic hysteric" Russian Orthodox Christian whose beliefs do not at all match mine were to be martyred for his or her faith by a jihadist (as has just recently happened), I would be the last person to say: "I don't agree with your understanding of Christ's teachings." I would say: "You are a martyr, go to your reward in Heaven."

    And that is the normal human reaction which affiliations (not just to a religious school of thought) generate. As was so many times sadly illustrated in Israel, when Israelis were all being targeted indiscriminately by persons seething with hatred, who imagined that committing the same atrocity over and over would actually change anything.

    It never does. All it does is generate greater unity even amongst those who might normally disagree. Which is why, when Muslim extremism targets a particular non-Islamic community ("Christians" or "Hindus" or "Americans" or "Europeans" or "Russians" or "Chinese"), the targeted groups will look beyond the usual fault lines that divide them internally, and react as One.

    The bitter truth -- that pill so many Muslims find so hard to swallow -- is that the history of the spread of Islam is a history of atrocities, barbarism, unspeakable tortures... Ever heard of Vlad the Impaler? Why did he do those awful things? Because the Turks were doing them. They did them to members of his family -- so he retaliated in kind, and upped the stakes (pardon the inevitable play on words).

    The History of Islam is NOT irrelevant at all to how Muslims are being viewed by the populations into whose communities they are now settling, far from their own kind.

    Maybe while a Jordanian family resides in Jordan it is not necessary for them to deal with the bloody legacy of Islamic armies besieging Vienna. But when they come to live in Austria, or Belgium, or even France and the UK, they need to accept that there is a History to the interface of these two worldviews -- that it took Europeans a whole lot of effort to push back the Islamic Conquest, and that it is still, even today -- regardless of what atheists imagine -- a sensitive subject.

    There is a History to study, to respect, and to confront with dignity.

    The victim of a crime is not on the same footing in a court of law as the culprit. The instigator of violence cannot demand that they be accorded the same courtesies as the side that reacts to that violence.

    Seizing someone else's land, hurting their children, raping their women is not going to make you the most popular religion on the planet.

    There was no talk of war in Iraq or Afghanistan (or now Iran) before 9/11. No one has been holding a gun to the head of Bin Laden or his best buddies forcing them to produce their hate-filled sermons summoning up the young men of Islam to a complete destruction of non-Islamic societies.

    Western "atheists and agnostics" who claim all religions are "the same" are lying, in a pretty blatant and primitive way, by the way.

    Their refusal to examine the very real differences that operate between the parties to these conflicts -- and the solid historical antecedents that are in effect, not to be swept away or wished away for the sake of convenience, being the actual hard results of true events, cataclysmic wars, massive persecutions (principally of Christians, predominantly in European countries, by Muslims, over the course of centuries; and also by Atheist Communists, and of course by Atheist Nazis who in particular sought to exterminate Jews and Judaism) -- actually endangers their own survival as a community, as well.

    Because Christianity has been far more tolerant of atheism, and non-conformism, than Islam.

    Certainly, India has its own rich History of suffering atrocities and persecutions at the hands of Muslim invaders.

    All of us are not simply "angry at them" for no good reason, or "voting against minarets" out of some kind of provincialism.

    Far from it: we would like Muslims to simply acknowledge the History. And then apologise to the descendants of their victims. And then swear never to promote violence, conquest, dominion over others, or the oppression of women and children -- ever again.

    When that becomes the Official Policy of the Islamic Leadership, and they actually start to try to teach these virtues to their billion or so constituents, then there can be a new chapter written in the relations of non-Muslims and Muslims.

    And not until then.



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  • 219. At 3:59pm on 02 Dec 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    cool_brush_work,

    In your post #214 you argue that in referenda, where a decision is taken by the majority, the minority which voted differently has only themselves to blame for not winning the argument. Taking the case of the Swiss referendum, it would appear that the pro-ban voters argued their case well, whereas the anti-ban voters did not. The anti-ban voters argued that this would lead to a law, which would discriminate against certain group of society.
    What I would like to ask is, what was the good reasoning/evidence, which supported the ban on the construction of minarets?

    I will try to pre-empt your argument about the Swiss referendum being a tool for the people to express their general unwillingness to accept Islam in their own country, and not directly linked to the building of minarets. Because it is not. If it was just a general way for the Swiss to express their feelings it would not have led to a very specific law. Law which bans the construction of minarets ONLY. A law which DOES NOT reduce the number of Muslims in Switzerland, change the teachings of Islam or encourage Muslims to integrate. Nor does it stop the ‘Islamisation of Europe’.

    With the above taken into account, could you explain the good reasoning which led to the ban on minarets in Switzerland? According to you, referenda are the way by which Common Citizen express their views, which must be respected. What I would like to know is what defined the views of the Common Citizen in this case? After all, we would not like to think the Swiss majority made a decision on a whim, therefore to justify the vote, very good arguments for the sufullness of a ban on minarets must have been present.

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  • 220. At 4:21pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #216 Found that amusing!

    Particularly,
    "If you haven't the desire for the dignity of all people, please refrain from exhibiting the desire to tell the lower classes how to behave."

    I'm from a south Wales mining family, if it wasn't for the mines closing down I'd probably be doing something involving mining myself. I grew up in hard times, was born in 84 so my parents had to deal with the miners' strike while looking after a young child. There's about 3 members of the generations of my family before me that weren't either miners, factory workers or in the forces.

    I'm common as muck mate, second rate muck at that thank you very much :P.

    You attack me for using the word feel instead of think. Well as you can see form the stupendous number of spelling and grammar mistakes in all my posts, I'm not the master of the written word (Scraped a C at GCSE in English). The point I was making is that political decisions sometimes have to be unpopolar to be fair.

    Do you honestly need me to point out some examples for you?

    Women votes?
    Slavery?
    Homosexuality laws?

    You jump at an example I used to make a point (the speeding fines/regulation) and then twist it out of context. Classic example of someone who can't make a clear and reasoned argument, as with your post at 208 which I strategically avoided so I wouldn't have to deal with your bile. You just grab one aspect of something, twist it, link it to something unconnected and forget your original point halfway through.

    You have accused me of thinking the elite should rule. That's nowhere near what I said. I've stated that we vote people into parliament, we pick the person we think will be the best for the job, then we trust them to make the decisions, the ones we can't be bothered to make or don't particularly care about, trusting them to take all factors into consideration with public opinion being one of them. If there is something we have strong views on we protest and can speak out against the decision or try to influence the decision as we see fit. The thing is the politicians have been given the power, by us, to ignore or agree with the protesters.

    Is that somehow the wrong interpretation?

    Seems to me the thing you're angry about isn't that I'm wrong or that I have views that don't mesh with yours. It seems to be that you don't agree with the political system we have. As I said in the post you have scathingly criticised, "We may not have faith in that system and we have the right to say something about it. It's not perfect but that's basically how it works." If you feel that strongly take it up with your MP or make a protest, don't just jump down the throat of somebody expressing an opinion you disagree with.

    I appear to have no desire for the dignitary of all people do I? Don't see where that comes from myself. What I've been arguing is that the decision is blatantly discriminatory, it singles out one religion. The point I've been making time and again is that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law. How does that fit with my supposed lack of desire for the dignity of all people?

    What's the point of you shouting me down? Standing up for that freedom of speech law I suppose?

    Where did I say I think I'm better than anyone?
    Where did I even suggest that people should listen to me?

    The question is whether banning minarets is a fair thing to do. I don't think it is, the same way that I don't think any religious symbol should be banned. The same way that I don't think any section of society should be discriminated against.

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  • 221. At 4:26pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    maria-ashot, one simple thing I'd like to say.

    An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.

    Just because some Islamic laws are discriminatory doesn't mean we should discriminate against Islam in revenge.

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  • 222. At 4:29pm on 02 Dec 2009, laila wrote:

    hallo everybody,

    Please do not try to compare SAUDI ARABIA with SWITZERLAND, because SAUDI ARABIA is a sacred place for Muslims and if the city of Vatican decided to not have any mosques i will totally accept and support that.

    You are also comparing your way of thinking to our way of thinking; we do not have the same understanding of freedom and human right.

    Islam is a neuter way of thinking who treat people objectively because it came from god but you your laws came from yourselves that’s why these laws are often self-centred and egoistic and because of your recent history marked by wars and colonialism and crimes against others (holocaust in Germany for example) all this turn to a radical and sometimes unrealistic understanding of freedom and human right because you have a feeling of guilt.

    I give you an example to understand what I am saying: for you sexual freedom is a human right but for us it is a dangerous thing because it violate the right of kids to be born in normal families and it spread illnesses and sometimes you will be surprised of having a son or a daughter but you did not knew because of a sexual relation that you did have so it create disorder and confusion.

    And for abortion it is a woman right for you but for us it is a crime because you are making the baby pay for the fault of the mother and the father and I personally do not understand how can you forbid the death penalty for killers and rappers and allow to kill innocent baby plus abortion create a great problem for Europe and oblige you to bring workers from outside.

    Concerning the woman issue, Islam respect the differences between men and women, Islam think that the relation between men and women is a relation of coordination and love but you you think that the relation between men and women is a relation of conflict, competition and hate and that woman will never feel respect for herself until she became a man, also in order to exploit women you make them understand that the concepts of honour and dignity and respect are signs of weakness and ignorance that’s why she have to refuse those concepts and how much she show her body and have sex how much she express her freedom and that she is a smart women.

    I am just trying to make you understand the differences between us.

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  • 223. At 4:50pm on 02 Dec 2009, sizzlestick wrote:

    I do business in Singapore. Malaysia and Indonesia and most of my business counterparts are Muslims. The Swiss referendum on minarets had whetted their curiosity and they ask me a non-Muslim where they could see lively commentaries on this referendam. Of course, I refer to this blog, being an ardent fan of BBC. This bunch of practicing Muslims is not only knowledgeable but talkative. Here are their comments, I have left out Quranic verses and other quotations so as not to belabour the readers with too much details.
    Re: Me rijn. They say “Alhamdullilah”. For if Me rijn is right. ECHR and ECJ are the tools of Allah. And I ask if Muslim countries need institutions like ECHR and ECJ? They said those things do not serve Islam, Islam does not need man-made rules to operate effectively. Al-Quran and hadiths will suffice. No need for institutions manned by mere men making rules.
    Re: Colonicus42. They thought this person is rather shallow in his thinking especially when he brushed aside ‘#167 megawatts7100’ with don’t fight discrimination with discrimination in #172. They said #167 was factually correct in highlighting what Muslims did. But this was done as per Allah’s will as empowerment is given to Muslims to act to please Him. And #173 from Colonicus42 was cited by them as to this person’s ignorance. They suspected he is a suffering atheist and now ranting off-topic. They have no use for an atheist, as atheism reduces knowledge which is not a human tendency i.e. to increase knowledge. And they cited an analogy: Imagine if all human knowledge including God-knowledge of Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc are put in a bowl. An atheist will insist that God-knowledge is non-sense. Wouldn’t this be reducing the human knowledge in the ‘bowl’?
    Re: cool_brush_work and ilk. They said are very clear and easy to manage. With 57% against 43% for minarets. They said Inshallah and pray that the majority stumbling block will be overcome. Afterall the West do take good care of minorities.
    My Muslim business partners thinks that #216 democracythreat is the most honest and forthright commentator. And I asked (if he is against minarets), why the praise? Because democracythreat tell it like it is ‘Swiss do not like minarets’. They sighed and wish that he is a Muslim. To them Islam is clear and conspicuous just like the tall minarets pointing to the skies.
    I ask ‘How about me a non-Muslim, you seems to have no problem doing business with me?’ They laughed and replied Prophet Mohammed pbuh was a businessman and would know a good bargain when he sees one.
    As I am inputting this in, they added that there will be no more comments or replies from them. They reckon that those who overexplain themselves with clarifications and elaborations later after the initial comment, are those with poor minds who are not clear in the first instance. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Good bye.

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  • 224. At 4:57pm on 02 Dec 2009, Aillil wrote:

    After all the bleating about the Swiss banning minarets (not banning mosques, nor Islam, mind), little has been said about the bleaters.

    Islamic countries ban building of churches (Turkey), conduct pogroms and discriminate against Coptic Christians (Egypt), place limits on the height of churches (Palestine), apply the death penalty to any who dare to convert to Christianity (Pakistan), ban importation of Bibles (Saudi Arabia), etc. And they have the gall to complain about the Swiss?

    The bleating of hypocrites is music to my ears.

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  • 225. At 5:24pm on 02 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    224. Aillil wrote:

    "...Islamic countries ban building of churches..."

    Ah but we are above such pettiness.

    We are sophisticated broad minded Europeans.

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  • 226. At 5:31pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #225

    If only, eh!

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  • 227. At 5:57pm on 02 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    "...the relation between men and women is a relation of conflict, competition and hate "

    Bravo, Laila! I knew it. :o)))))

    Seriously, it is brave of you to step into discussion where so many people at once disagree with you about Islam.

    Maria - ashot, is, though, also right, about taking in account history in relations between Moslems and Christians. Historical relations differ from place to place, in some - zero experience, in some - a plenty.

    What did Western Europe knew about Islam, people on the ground, in their family history past - until 50 years ago?

    When "Christian Europe" fought with muslims - excuse me, it was Russia, Armenia and Georgia - with Persia - in the Caucasus mountains.

    The next time "Christian Europe" fought with muslims - excuse me, it was Russia and slavs - against Turkey. Same Caucasus plus Black Sea plus Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Moldova.

    Not Germans, not French, not English. That's why you "did not notice" - not your bloody wars.
    Britain, for that matter, often teamed up with Turkey.

    The next time "Christian Europe" fought with muslims - it was Russia, for 150 yrs of Caucasus wars - with those Caucasians who became muslims, during the length of Persian occupation.
    Again, not the "mainland war" - you have no idea.

    In total, slav experience about Persia and Turkey - amounts to about 500 years. While Western Europeans? last 50?

    Ah, anyway.
    ______________________

    Laila, a Russian verse for you, 110 yrs old. Hope you won't be angry :o)
    I could not but not remember it, when you wrote your first post and it was "Laila".

    "I have asked today the exchange man (menyala),
    The one who gives half-a tuman - for a rouble,
    How can I say, in Persian, for the beautiful Leila :o)))
    The tender word - " love you" ?

    I have asked today the exchange chap
    (quieter than wind rustle; lighter than fountain stream)
    - How can I say, for the beautiful Leila,
    The tender word " a kiss" ?

    And, moreover! I asked that old exchange man,
    (Hiding my timidity deeper, into my heart) :o))
    - How can I say, for the beautiful Leila,
    Oh how can I say "Be mine?"

    And replied to me that exchange guy strictly: :o( :o))))
    - About "love" - you don't speak in words!
    About love - you can only sigh modestly, in the corner! :o)))
    While eyes shine - like saphires.

    A kiss - it has no "naming"
    A kiss - is not an inscription on a grave stone.
    As a red rose - kisses fly
    Melting like rose petals, on the lips.

    From love - you don't demand any promises
    With it - you'll know both happiness, and grief.
    "You're mine" - can say only hands
    That took away the black veil!




    Laila, Islam does not want to accommodate Christian values; why should Christian world accommodate Islam values?
    Isn't it better that all keep to own style, without trying to change each other? We do seem to disagree on many parameters.

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  • 228. At 6:00pm on 02 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    rg: "We are sophisticated broad minded Europeans" ... who are learning to communicate effectively with Muslims in terms they can actually understand.

    And long overdue, too.

    Clearly, simple "sophisticated broad minded European" was incomprehensible to them. Even while they lived amongst us, collected benefits from our taxes, attended our schools, worked in our offices, married into our families.

    Maybe this more familiar language will be more comprehensible to them.

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  • 229. At 6:04pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    216 democracythreat
    "You think your own opinions are not worth the same as your beloved political party representatives opinions"

    I missed that initially and it's actually spot on.
    My opinions arn't worth as much as an elected representative for the obvious fact that they are an elected representative. People have decided that that person should represent their views. So of course their opinion should carry more weight than mine and, obviously, it indeed does.
    Yes my opinion does matter, but no more than yours or anyone elses.
    If the elected representative doesn't do a good job then they get voted out, and of course whether they have done a good job or not is up to the people they represent, but obviously as a collective.
    Sure there are problems with the system, but it's the best we've come up with so far and does allow us scope to change it for the better, or indeed for the worse.

    Incidentally, I quite like the description of me in 223. 'A suffering athiest', I like it! If they bother to keep reading I'd like to point out that they've made some very good points. Though I respect their views I disagree with alot of them, but regardless they have made some very good points and ones worth considering.
    Particularly, "those who overexplain themselves with clarifications and elaborations later after the initial comment, are those with poor minds who are not clear in the first instance". Mind you, those of us with poor minds tend to speak before thinking properly about whether what we think and what we are saying match up.

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  • 230. At 6:08pm on 02 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #228
    What are you implying there? Theres some clear implications in there that need clarifying I think.
    What exactly do you mean by 'this more familiar language'?

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  • 231. At 6:33pm on 02 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    I think maria-ashot meant a simple straightforward NO :o))))
    how was it said? as simple as a minaret. :o))))

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  • 232. At 6:35pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    sizzlestick

    Re 3223

    Hmm, a more graphic explanation of the Islamic mind-set is difficult to envisage!

    Quote, "..They reckon those that overexplain themselves with clarifications and elaborations later, after the initial comment are those with poor minds, who are not clear in the first instance.. say what you mean and mean what you say.."

    Need it be put anymore clearly: 'There is no God but Allah.'

    A Muslim perspective if ever I heard one: No room for an alternative, debate, derogation... You will be a follower of Islam or you are nothing.

    Come on people: It is not too hard to see where that sort of logic ends up - - want to do business, well do it our way or not at all - - I, for one am very grateful for your illustration - - it points up the difference.

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  • 233. At 6:44pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    laila

    Re 3222

    Nice try!

    I admire your touching allegiance to Islam.

    However, the fact is that even that bastion of Roman Catholicism, the Vatican, has set-aside a spot for those of another 'Faith' in St Peter's Basilica, no less!

    Any chance of Saudi Arabia setting aside a small ante-room somewhere in Mecca?

    No, oh well, that is just one more of those unfortunate negatives about this religion that lays claim to so much peace-tolerance-understanding!

    Never mind, I'm sure it will all be resolved to the compassionate consensual compromise of all concerned - - What's that? There is no compromise with the one supreme God!

    Oh well, back to the faithful knocking hells-bells out of each other in the name of peace.

    Do you know, some call me a cynic, can you believe it!???

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  • 234. At 7:30pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Colonicus42

    Re #215

    Thank you again for your consideration.

    Now to business.

    Ah, the Wales voice! 3.6 million v 49.0+ million - - a daunting prospect - - if I was a supporter of the underdog just for being the underdog then Wales would get my vote everytime. However, applying 'democratic principles' it does seem to me that Wales is having its voice heard - - muted true - - nevertheless, in this modern age there is no putting the plug back in and surely a resonant Welsh voice is becoming clearer by the years.
    You may want it yesterday, well, win your 'devolution' argument then, in Wales among the Welsh. No power on earth will stop you in this present liberal political climate.

    You have my symnpathy for 800+ years of oppression by the 'English': However, contrary to popular 'political imagery', not my apology. That undoubted King of Wales Owain Glendwyer got shafted by those beastly 'english' - - such is history - - such is life for a Muslim in Switzerland!

    Why would anyone apologise for voting how they felt? Should they have voted against their feelings? Perhaps feeling sorry for the other chap is how the World should be run but it patently is not.

    Unlike you, I am unsure I "..hit the nail on the head.." because in a 'true democracy' that nail must be by its nature very illusive! What is seen as 'politically-socially' good for Wales/Switzerland today may not be so tomorrow: Democracy is an ever evolvig conception, responsive to the Citizen Electorate - - a National or supra-National Court that claims to have the ultimate answer to an issue is a denial of basic 'democracy values'. Who can doubt a Court in 1809 would have found the Union of Wales and England an altogether superior argument to any other decision, so, in 1909, when there may well have been some debate on the issue it is unlikely the majority decision would have gone against the staus quo - - Law is about recognising precedent and sticking to it - - whereas in 2009, is there not an incredibly strong (though unproven) argument for any decision about Wales' future being left to the Welsh. However, if we take the Law Courts, as presently constituted, in the UK, EU and Europe in general, do you think Wales could win the day in legal argument!?
    Somehow I doubt it.
    Law Courts are not about what is right or wrong. They are about what is correct within the given facts.

    E.g. An example I know well from Finland (apologies Jukka-R, the names are purely there for the illustrative point):

    A man asks the Station attendant at Helsinki rail terminus, "Is this the train for Helsinki to Rouvaniemi?"
    "Yes," replies the attendant, "That is correct."

    Nothing could be simpler.

    Except the attendant neglected to mention the Train stops at Kouvola, Lahti, Mikkeli, Kuopio, Iisalmi, Kuusamo etc. before arriving at Rouvaniemi.

    Law does not see things that way: Law sees A to Z and all points in between are immaterial.

    I like Law, but trust it, I do not: 'Democracy' on the other hand has the advantage of being the first hand experience and expression of those that are eligible Citizens and are a far greater number drawn from the society in which the 'political decision' is being made.

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  • 235. At 7:38pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Isenhorn

    Re #219

    I'm a little bit puzzled: Are you asking me again to rehearse my arguments as to why a sovereign People in a sovereign Nation have the right to make their choice known by Referendum, or, are you asking me to explain how the elegible Swiss Citizen Electorate arrived at that decision?

    If it is the former, please read my #8 and #214, again: If it is the latter, your guess is absolutlely as good as mine! Why would you conceive of the possibility I would know the mind of the Swiss Electorate anymore than yourself!?

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  • 236. At 7:55pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @sizzlestick

    Interesting to read the comments from your partners.

    However re "Re: Me rijn. They say “Alhamdullilah”. For if Me rijn is right. ECHR and ECJ are the tools of Allah. And I ask if Muslim countries need institutions like ECHR and ECJ? They said those things do not serve Islam, Islam does not need man-made rules to operate effectively. Al-Quran and hadiths will suffice. No need for institutions manned by mere men making rules."

    They haven't quite understood my point. I guess it's not easy for them because the achievements of the European peoples on regional integration (including international and supranational courts) are not matched by any other region in the world.

    I am not arguing in favor of Islam or from the perspective of a muslim. I am arguing from the perspective of fundamental human rights (which in this case would be in favor of muslims who want to build minarets).

    The European Convention on Human Rights and the ECHR are not interested in Allah, Sharia, Quran, Hadith, the lot. Allah can stand on his head, the judges of the ECHR don't care.

    The ECHR does care about respect for human rights, this includes the freedom of religion, which encompasses ALL religions.

    Judges apply the rules we as peoples (including the swiss) have agreed to respect. The ECHR (and the ECJ and any other judge in Europe) does not need Allah, Jahweh, God, etc. to enforce our man made rules. The Law does not need a higher authority (religious or other) for it to be law.

    All are equal before the Law.

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  • 237. At 8:04pm on 02 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    We are wasting our time by with declarations of the type "Switzerland is a sovereign country". Since it is and the country also has signed the convention of human rights, there are now contradictions in Switzerland's legal system.
    Therefore the matter is far from ended.

    Obviously the whole matter is also a serious question to the entire form of ruling in Switzerland too, and both themes occupy the European press.
    How about discussing real problems?

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  • 238. At 8:06pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Law does not see things that way: Law sees A to Z and all points in between are immaterial."

    That is quite incorrect.

    The most important thing about rulings of Courts is not the actual endresult the judge(s) reach(es). This is only really important for the actual parties involved.

    The most important part is the way from A to Z, the logic followed by the judge, because this will tell us which logic we can apply to other (similar but not identical) legal problems.

    On the long term this is what survives the actual case.

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  • 239. At 8:12pm on 02 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Alice (No. 180): No, "scientific atheism" did not actually inject a "dose of scepticism" into the USSR as far as faith goes: that was actually the policy of exterminating "enemies of the people."

    After the Russian state was overthrown, the hierarchs of the Russian Church, most members of religious communities, priests and their families, as well as rank-and-file laity were subjected to systematic & relentless persecution, tortures, atrocities, expropriation -- not to mention military, peasants, intelligentsia... You live in St. P.: you should know all about this.

    They were executing 16 y.o. girls for wearing school uniforms. They were stopping passersby on the street and examining their hands for the absence of calluses, with summary executions right there, on the spot, at the nearest wall or lamp-post.

    It took a great deal of suffering to make millions of Russians act as if they had forgotten about God, about Christ, about the religions of their forefathers, about their heritage.

    When the persecutions finally ended, religion bounced back all across the former Soviet bloc states, including Russia & Ukraine. It had never actually completely disappeared: past persecutions have already proven that it is futile to attempt to exterminate populations on the basis of who they are or how they worship.

    For the most part, relations between the principal faiths and denominations are quite cordial today. But there are always some nutjobs in all camps.

    It is not possible to fairly, accurately compare the coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Russia or Kazakhstan with the situation in Europe, or this minaret debate.

    Overwhelmingly, Muslims in the ex-USSR are descended from other Muslims who lived within the Russian Empire, in Central Asia and so forth. They do not as a matter of habit attempt to gain special rights or privileges for themselves. They simply live as they have always lived in the places that they are habituated to, where they are not viewed by the typical non-Muslim as someone alien to the society. Yes, there are the occasional explosions of rage -- but there are explosions of rage all over Russia, unsurprisingly, after almost a century of extreme hardship, and Russians who become dangerously enraged are as likely to target one of their own -- a family member, a colleague, even a friend -- as they are to assault someone of a different ethnic group. The ethnically-motivated attacks, naturally enough, get more attention outside Russia. But they are not more frequent, by any means, than other tragic manifestations of brutality.

    In Europe, and in the USA, the overwhelming majority of observant Muslims are recent arrivals from distant lands. While they receive generous social benefits (that the average Russian citizen and even many Americans in America would envy), their unapologetic stance of moral & spiritual superiority, as evidenced by a determined rejection of the most basic trappings of European life -- dress, demeanor, rule of law -- inevitably irritates the locals, who can often trace their family history in a certain corner of Europe several centuries back, in detail.

    Apologists for jihadism, active since jihadism itself began to escalate the battle "for the creation of a global Caliphate," have added an additional level of irritation.

    If Russians based in Russia -- who legitimately complain that "Europe doesn't really understand or appreciate us" -- could also entertain the possibility that they themselves need to understand Europeans in Europe a little better, they would be neither surprised nor dismayed that the Swiss voted to end the construction of any new minarets in their land.

    Switzerland is a small country. It has a distinctive history. It has a genuine direct-vote democracy. It should be allowed to say: "no minarets here" just as I can say, about my own home: "no minarets here."

    I welcome non-Christians into my home all the time -- even many friends who are outright atheists, and some who probably still sympathise with Lenin and Trotsky, whom I utterly abhor. But I will not allow them to decorate my home for me, or to put up shrines to what I do not accept, or to hang Soviet Communist paraphernalia next to my icons. That is the normal reaction of a normal person: which is precisely why Muslims in overwhelmingly Muslim countries discourage other religions from gaining a clear physical foothold or advantage in their land.

    Until they change their policies, we should follow suit.

    By the way, Alice, icons -- images (obraza) -- serve exactly the same function in Greek Orthodoxy (that's the source religion for ROC) as photographs of loved ones serve in our lives. These are not objects that are "prayed to": they are visual aids and expressions of interest in a particular kind of spiritual model or example.

    They are treated with reverence because the Person depicted is revered, just as someone might kiss or cherish a favourite photo of a dear one.

    There is a Russian way of understanding God, just as there is a Jewish way, or an English way, or a Spanish way -- but there is no "Russian God."

    God is God. If you believe the Divine exists, if you feel the Divine Presence, then that Presence is much bigger than any Cosmos we know. It may smile on someone who wants to get closer, and even allow that closeness to unfold: but the Divine, by definition, does not favour one good child over another good child.

    The operative word here being: Good. That is a core Christian teaching, and Russia today is indeed a Christian land (whatever the President and Prime Minister might say in keeping with the Constitution and their respect for non-Christians). And so the message in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John applies.

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  • 240. At 8:25pm on 02 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    No. 183, democracythreat: I like what you wrote. Beautifully, in fact.

    You see? We agree on so much.

    Only keep in mind that atheists also have "priesthoods." I am no more inclined to have an atheist tell me what to think, than any other promulgator of theories about the Infinite.

    The best example of how to address the Infinite (since you obviously won't like Christ) is Socrates.

    When Christ offered the parable of the sower sowing seeds, He never suggested that the sower then needs to stand over the seeds and shout at them, telling them to grow a certain way at a certain rate.

    A very famous Russian Christian bishop of the 20th century, whom many revere as a saint, once said to me: "There are so many bishops in hell, it is terrifying..."

    No one should be forcing anything down anyone's throats. What faith we come to, those of us that choose one, is to be discovered in an organic, non-violent, non-sycophantic way.

    When a soul in turmoil chooses someone in a cassock or robe over a therapist, for counsel, the same rules apply as to every other situation. Maybe the advice is good. Maybe it isn't.

    You still are the one who has to make the decisions, and live with them.

    You still need to exercise caution, and perhaps collect other opinions.

    Religious bodies have just as much tendency to be rife with incompetence -- and also with competence -- as any other human groups.

    There is no need to vilify religious orders or adherents any more than anyone else. But yes, we can tell them what they can build in what zone, or not. And we can also say "yes" or "no" to a stadium, a library, a swimming pool -- that ridiculous Gazprom tower -- a mammoth home (as constantly happens in America) or any new and prominent structure.

    That is all within the norms of civilised society.


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  • 241. At 8:27pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mathiasen

    Re Your #181 and my #196

    I ask again: What is it you are doing to have Saudi Arabia "recognise Europe's History"?

    It seems to me I have been on here for 48 hours defending the Swiss Referendum!

    Well, you are a critic: What is your explanation for the bigotry, prejudice, oppression practised in another Nation?

    I'm just curious, what is it that makes you feel so bad about about all this and yet you remain totally silent about the representative nation of that other 'Faith!?
    Please don't cop-pout claiming 'example' will make them change - - 700+ years has not had that effect - - so, what is it Mathiasen that is so shaming about Europe's Switzerland Referendum result: At least Citizens (males and females) were asked a question?

    Do tell us how your wife got on 'driving', never mid expressing an opinion, in Saudi next time she's over there!?

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  • 242. At 9:00pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    The 'only thing' that 'survives' a Legal Judgement is the Decision.

    Precedent of Judgement is paramount as anyone familiar with even basic Jurisprudence would know.
    A Barrister/Lawyer does not stand in Court and present copious arguments about how this or that Judgement was arrived at: They stand before the Court and announce this or that 'Judgement' on such and such was made.

    Case proven or Case dismissed.

    End of Legal argument.

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  • 243. At 9:08pm on 02 Dec 2009, Malini wrote:

    Declaration of human rights:

    "Article 18.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

    How can a modern country have a law that bans a certain type of building? Had it been a case of one particular minaret, one can discuss that, but a total ban doesn't belong in a modern, democratic country supporting the human rights. I see someone has argued that it is democratic to ban them, because the people have voted for this. But a democracy does not give a majority the right to suppress a minority!

    I also saw that someone critisized the idea that this ban can have economic consequences for Switzerland, because muslims are such a minority. Well, I hope reactions also come from others than muslims themselves. Where I live in Scandinavia, people are certainly shocked that the Swiss would vote for a ban like this!

    I hope this case goes to Strassbourg.

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  • 244. At 9:13pm on 02 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #241 cool_brush_work
    Unless new information becomes available I have made the remarks I want to make on the Swiss referendum.
    Your agenda has been subject to discussions for the last 15 years. There is no reason to repeat this once again.

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  • 245. At 9:28pm on 02 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "The 'only thing' that 'survives' a Legal Judgement is the Decision.

    Precedent of Judgement is paramount as anyone familiar with even basic Jurisprudence would know.
    A Barrister/Lawyer does not stand in Court and present copious arguments about how this or that Judgement was arrived at: They stand before the Court and announce this or that 'Judgement' on such and such was made.

    Case proven or Case dismissed.

    End of Legal argument."

    No not really, I'll illustrate with a few examples:

    In the Les Verts case before the ECJ: Following a literal interpretation of the EEC Treaty, one could not bring an action for annulment before the court against an act of the European Parliament. The ECJ ruled (contrary to the exact wording of the Treaty) that this WAS possible. The logic followed was that the Community was based on the rule of law and that no binding act could escape judicial review.

    What is important here? In the long term not that you can have acts of Parliament annuled, because the Treaty has already been amended. What is important in the long term, for other private persons, is that the Court will not declare itself incompetent to review binding acts of EU institutions even if that power to review is not explicitly provided in primary law. Because the rule of law dictates that a complete system of judicial protection is available (= this logic survives the case, not the fact that acts of parliament may be reviewed).

    In the Costa v. Enel case that you are familiar with because you have cited it before. What survives the case here is that there is supremacy of EU law (as you know), based on the principle of 'effet utile' (supremacy is needed, otherwise there is not effet utile).
    Nobody really knows the actual outcome of that case anymore, which just shows that on the long term, it's the logic applied by judges that survives the case.

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  • 246. At 9:40pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mathiasen

    Re #244

    Well, it is just to clear the air.

    I have to say I always made a point of reading your contributions at least twice: it seemed to me though we came at things from diametrically opposed standpoints there was much to gain from consideration of your views.

    You have had much to say on Europe/EU and the UK and the rights of the Citizens/Humans.

    You are conspicuously silent on the issue of the rights of Citizens/Humans when another culture is in question: I will not say it is intellectual cowardice, but, until I can think of another more apropriate word unfortunately I must let my initial reaction cloud my views on anything you have to offer in future debates.

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  • 247. At 10:01pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Malini

    Re 3243

    Why ask the 'west'!? At least the issue gets an airing.

    Ask Saudi Arabia.

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  • 248. At 10:14pm on 02 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    maria-ashot.
    nobody likes revolutionaries. neither ? Divine powers of all religions. nor the "commoner". never the "majority".

    LOL, if you noticed - even those Singapore muslim chaps-businessmen, or was it Malaisia? don't like an atheist. For if the person is technically correct :o))) - believes in Divine powers, it's only a matter to convert him from one faith to another. While, if he doesn't have faith in any thing - consider a total goner, un-fixable . :o))))

    I don't have a problem with believing in those, extra-beyond-here un-definable, something.

    Once any human being takes care to , how to say, sit down for three minutes and think that the universe has no ends. because it doesn't, LOL ! it simply can not end, because where it ends - something else starts :o))))

    you immediately get a scale of perspective, a range of human mind possibilities, and understand who you are and where :o)))) Nobody - and nowhere, to be more exact :o)))))

    Compared to "universe does not end" - any "God" - is possible.

    What I do have problems with, is being subordinate to God.
    Why not equal friendly terms?

    Yes, I know - "nobody nowhere" and such ideas of being on the same footing. Bizarre. May be, bizarre.

    Anyway, this is not a place for teological discussions.

    The "instilled a dose of sceptisism" and "killed all right and left" are not mutually exclusive. First killed all right and left, then when things quieted down - worked on atheism in masses.
    I won't stick to this point, anyway. Compared to mass killings - indeed, what "sciences" after. You are right. "By blood smells only blood".

    With Russky God though disagree. All have something their own, Russians, as you know - didn't. And not much changed in this respect, between old times, USSR and now. So they got themselves Russky God.

    Blaspheny and competition, LOL, of course, but as this seems the only thing of our own - of the bunch of folks here - we won't sell him cheap! :o)))) I'm afraid there is no yielding back in this respect.
    ________________

    Was charmed as all by voice from Singapore in the discussion :o)))
    democracythreat, wow, you've got compliments :o)))), the tradesmen know a good lawyer when they see one! commercial instinct! :o))))

    Likewise, LOL, never saw an Asian tradesmen in the Asian bazaar, who, having said a firm "no" does not :o))) return back :o))) in 5 minutes to re-negotiate the deal :o)))) Oh surely they will be reading this more.

    This ? how to say? how Indian chieftains, in America were saying "I have said it all!" - what's the word, from Fenimor Cooper novels ? is limited to American Indians.
    Well, there was also historically a cry in Russian sphere, "Word and Deal" - together at once - at times tsar Peter. But nobody luckily here knows of the grave consequances following from this very threatening combination, so I will leave it out for good.

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  • 249. At 10:20pm on 02 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #246. cool_brush_work
    I am sorry to entertain everybody with these banalities: If we are going to convince anybody about the advantages of the European values, we should not start with a violation of this values on our own part.
    Switzerland is not Saudi Arabia. It is a European country with an obligation in the matter human rights.
    The country will have to explain itself in Strasbourg.

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  • 250. At 10:35pm on 02 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Actually, Colonicus, I think you write magnificently.

    We are not in exact agreement on this subject (No. 220), but I understand your reasoning and hear it in all kinds of places.

    For example, because Communism persecuted religion, many of my friends in Russia are now appalled by the idea that there should be any regulation of religion or religious symbolism at all.

    Some actually go so far as to advocate an actual abolition of secular laws and their replacement with a "Christian" version of shariah. Some believe clergy make better rulers or legislators than laity.

    There is room for all these opinions and beliefs in a free society.

    My own personal approach to Islam in Christian countries is based strictly on Reciprocity.

    As much as you expect of us in your lands, so much are we entitled to expect of you in your lands. As much freedom of worship as you allow others, we should allow you.

    You have a dress code for our women? We have a dress code for yours.

    As I said before: once they return the Hagia Sofia (minus the minarets they appended), and tell the truth about History, we can discuss other reciprocal measures.

    Strictly on a step by step, measure for measure basis. In a positive sense, but in a very precisely defined sense.

    And the rights of children and women to dignity & freedom are not negotiable. They are enshrined in the UN Charter which all the Muslim nations of the world have signed.

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  • 251. At 11:00pm on 02 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mathiasen

    Re #249

    As I suspected: All fine words, fine feelings and appeals to reason - - no commitment to adhere to basic democratic values at all so long as your life is comfortable - - Incredibly, You regard it as 'banalities', but I'm just wondering when do you and your sort of argument actually come out and debate never mind make a stand with the 'opposition'?

    So far as I can tell from your Contributions going back over a couple of years - - there is nothing you will not stand for - - except to find fault with something amongst your European/UK brethren.

    'Banalities' is it? The right of women to choose their own partner, the right of women to be seen in public, the right of women to education, the right of gays not to be beaten to death, for adulters not to be stoned, christians, jews, muslims to practise their religion in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for another!

    When do you make a stand Mathiasen? When they come for you?
    Let's face it there will be almost no one else left as you certainly wont be found on the wall defending their 'rights', will you?

    Frankly, when I read your courageous "..obligation to human rights.." whilst you crawl away from any confrontation with those who would never let even your view see the light of day, I feel Europe can not get much lower in its philosophical abasement!

    Still, Denmark is okay.

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  • 252. At 11:29pm on 02 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mathiasen wrote:
    #246. cool_brush_work
    "I am sorry to entertain everybody with these banalities: If we are going to convince anybody about the advantages of the European values, we should not start with a violation of this values on our own part.
    Switzerland is not Saudi Arabia. It is a European country with an obligation in the matter human rights.
    The country will have to explain itself in Strasbourg."

    With respect, no sovereign nation has to explain it self to the self appointed elites in Strasbourg. The USA doesn't. The Queen of Great Britain doesn't. And nor do the Swiss.

    I would rather think that Strasbourg needs to explain itself to the Swiss voters.

    Mathiasen, you have an extremely heavy handed approach to the education of folks. You talk about the court in strasbourg as though it has some kind of divine authority. You are aware, are you not, that the ECHR has no power to dictate to the Swiss people?

    If the court decides that the Swiss have somehow upset a rule contained in the treaty on human rights, they can condemn the Swiss.

    But just so, if the Swiss think the ECHR is a load of elite hacks who need to get out more often and preach less about things they don't know anything about..... then the Swiss can condemn the ECHR.

    Your tone of threatening doom would be more suitable to a despotic system of law. Such as, for example, the inquisition of the Catholic church in the 15th century.

    You lack humility, Mathiasen. You speak of human rights as though you know what they are, and further that you know what the ECHR thinks they are.

    But who are you? You are just one person who is upset about the Swiss system of direct democracy making law.

    Of course, you claim moral outrage because you say the swiss have singled out the muslim faith.

    So what?

    I repeat, SO WHAT? Since when is proscribing a cult a breach of human rights law?

    People go to jail in Germany for even questioning the holocaust. But that is not a breach of human rights to free speech. And why? Because, Mathiesan, human rights are whatever a competent judge says they are.

    You claim religious orders have certain fundamental rights to erect minarets. The Swiss say otherwise. And maybe a judge says something else again. So who is right?

    Who has the power to define human rights?

    It is a very serious question. Who holds that power?

    A judge? Why? Why should a judge in a foreign country hold more power than the people of the country in question? Because you want it to be so?

    Underneath your claims of human rights, there exists a terrible, terrible irony. Has it not occurred to you that an organized religion is using human rights law to defend itself against the will of the people?

    Mathiesan, where do suppose human rights law comes from? Don't you realize that human rights law evolved as the expression of the sentiment that people ought to have the power to rule their own destinies?

    No, it occurs to me now that you probably do not. You probably believe that wise judges and priests "gave" human rights law to the common class of untermensch. Well, they didn't. Human rights have been clawed from the elite piece by miserable piece. And there has been no greater sinner and enemy of the very concept of human rights than organized religion. Never, not on any continent in any age. Religion is, perhaps axiomatically, the enemy of human rights. It is the exploitation of ignorance for profit by those who would terrorize there fellows with fanatsy. It is the business of selling lies to people under a duty of care.

    You see, you presume a great deal about the "rights" of the church, but you forget that religions are not human. And you forget upon whose authority the legitimacy of the law rests. If Strasbourg comes out and lectures the Swiss voter, Strasbourg is guilty of presuming to know better than the people it pretends to assist.

    A court exists to enforce the law of the people, not to create law for the people. A judge has no business legislating AND judging.

    You fail to understand that point, and so does me_rijn.

    me_rijn makes the hideously ironic mistake of pretending that the claim for supremacy in Costa survived the bid for power by the court.

    Of course it didn't! The judges in costa tried to make law for europeans by simply claiming that they had the power to make binding decisions on law under the treaty of Rome.

    That bid failed precisely because the other high courts in Europe said "NO, YOU DO NOT HAVE THAT POWER."

    And why? Because the ECJ in Costa did not take into account its neglect of human rights expertise. the german and italian constitutional courts made it clear that until the ECJ became expert in humans rights law, as set out by the constitutions of germany and Italy, the ECJ was simply dreaming if it thought it could make power grabs out of the blue, and start acting as a legislator in Europe.

    Now, many years later, me_rijn tries to rewrite history by saying that costa is now good law because the ECJ has been granted the power to make binding judgements on human rights law. And therefore, he argues, it was always good law. But it wasn't because it did not have the power t claimed at the time. that wasn't a legal question, it was a question of fact. Despite the best efforts of the ECJ, every other high court ignored it and laughed at its lack of competence.

    And that is precisely what will happen if Strasbourg decides to carry out judicial legislation instead of upholding the legislation created by the Swiss. It will be ignored. It will be scorned. It will lose effect as it is treated with utter contempt.

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  • 253. At 00:15am on 03 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    BTW, DemoThreat,

    You are to respected for defending your country, BUT

    Do you always have to drag America into every one of your posts?
    We are not always the bad guy and in this case we were just standing here doing ..nothing, and you dragged the USA's name into it.

    Im not trying to give you ammunition for an attack on Americans or USA.

    I'm just sayin' not judging.

    (my motto is "dont you judge me"--saw it on a funny show ..My Name is Earl) so

    Don't u judge me :) lolol

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  • 254. At 00:24am on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    democracythreat

    Re #242

    Hmm, you really do like your Swiss!

    More power to you on this particular issue.

    I personally believe the Swiss Referendum result was not a good thing, but above all that I believe, like yourself, the Citizen's democratic rights prevail and no Court has the authority to replace the Free-will of the people in a democratic election.

    There are some very sharp lessons here for the Citizens of the EU; I think to some extent that is why the 'pro-EU' have reacted so negatively - - they sense the danger to that entity set-up by Law and Judgement, but almost entirely without Public consent via a 'democratic' ballot.

    Switzerland made its legitimate 'democratic' choice: What can any Court do except splutter about its legal niceties - - none of which matter to the Individual Swiss Citizen who in secret voted 'yes' or 'no' to a question asked by his/her own Government - - and clearly they made their decision irrespective of the Court's assumed importance.
    Is the ECHR going to punish the individual Citizen? If so, which ones? If it seeks by Law to punish the Nation of Switzerland then it punishes those it would deem 'innocent' along with those it sees as 'guilty' and that obviously would be a breech of Human Rights... HoHoHoHoHoHo!!!!

    These people with their admiration for 'Law'!

    To paraphrase as you wrote: It is the People gave the Courts 'Law', not the other way round. A Judge is from the People, not above the People.

    Wrote before and write again: The Swiss Citizen kicked back and said they would be heard.

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  • 255. At 08:49am on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @Democracythreat "If Strasbourg comes out and lectures the Swiss voter, Strasbourg is guilty of presuming to know better than the people it pretends to assist."

    @CBW "To paraphrase as you wrote: It is the People gave the Courts 'Law', not the other way round. A Judge is from the People, not above the People.

    Wrote before and write again: The Swiss Citizen kicked back and said they would be heard."

    The thing you two seem to completely ignore is that the Swiss (like all other European states) have bound themselves to respect the ECHR AND the rulings of the ECHR.

    So basically the European people have already said that Strasbourg has the power to lecture them. The ECHR didn't magically appear you know. The Swiss agreed to it, agreed to the competence of the judges and because of the international dimension have taken on an extra obligation; pacta sunt servanda.

    @CBW Re "Is the ECHR going to punish the individual Citizen? If so, which ones? If it seeks by Law to punish the Nation of Switzerland then it punishes those it would deem 'innocent' along with those it sees as 'guilty' and that obviously would be a breech of Human Rights... HoHoHoHoHoHo!!!!"

    Perhaps you should read something on the ECHR. It does not have the competence to make a ruling against private individuals, only against the signatory states.

    @ Democracythreat Re "Now, many years later, me_rijn tries to rewrite history by saying that costa is now good law because the ECJ has been granted the power to make binding judgements on human rights law. And therefore, he argues, it was always good law. But it wasn't because it did not have the power t claimed at the time. that wasn't a legal question, it was a question of fact. Despite the best efforts of the ECJ, every other high court ignored it and laughed at its lack of competence."

    Nice story telling, but you kind of forget that European Integration has kept going, faster and deeper, despite 'objections' from National Supreme courts. Mind the quotes, because those supreme courts never made their objections hard. It basically came down to "We don't like that supranational court, undermining our traditional superior position, but we can't do nothing about it". Not a single supreme court has (yet) tried rule against a ruling of the ECJ.

    So if the German Supreme Court was laughing after the SOlange 1 case, as you suggest, it was laughing quite bitterly: the Supreme Court said it still had competence to check if the human rights enshrined in the Grundgesetz were respected, because it felt that the ECJ didn't do this properly, but did the Supreme Court ever rule against a Community act through this self created competence? No it did not.

    Re "And that is precisely what will happen if Strasbourg decides to carry out judicial legislation instead of upholding the legislation created by the Swiss. It will be ignored. It will be scorned. It will lose effect as it is treated with utter contempt."

    Don't know how many times I will have to say this. But the ECHR is only concercned with the ECHR, not with national law. If you want to have national law upheld: you go to national (ultimately the supreme) courts. The ECHR is the court of the ECHR, therefore it is only concerned with the ECHR.

    If the ECHR can only uphold national legislation, there is no point in creating the ECHR: you don't need an international court if it can only rubberstamp national legislation. I have no idea where you get these wicked ideas from.


    For those that want to make analogies with saudi arabia:
    A (supposed) breach of human rights in country A is not neutralized because country B also is in breach of human rights. If this would be the case, we needn't bother anymore with human rights.

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  • 256. At 09:28am on 03 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    This is the link from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8388776.stm
    It has a number of reactions from the European press on the Swiss referendum including two different evaluations from Switzerland.

    Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) is among the leading papers in Europe. So are the German media BBC here quotes. The two Danish media are leading papers in Denmark.

    Berlingske Tidende represents the government in Denmark, which has rejected a proposal from its right wing populist partner for a referendum on minarets in Denmark. This explains why the paper is using a nationalistic tone. The rejection is right. The tone is unpleasant.

    PS: Thank you Jean Luc, #255. Then I will not have to do it. Thanks a lot.

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  • 257. At 09:29am on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    U14179051

    Re #255

    I can assure you I have forgotten nothing: Most especially do I recall that the Citizens of Switzerland were asked in a perfectly legal Referendum what they thought about 1 particular issue and like it or not the Swiss gave a substantial Majority answer.

    You, however, appear not to have forgotten, but to have overlooked this legitimate 'democratic process'!
    Afterall, where in all your legal Judgements does it say Referendum are illegal?

    "...ECHR... does not have competence to make rulings against individuals, only against the signatory States."

    So, when I wrote, "...if it (ECHR) seeks by Law to punish the Nation of Switzerland..", I was obviously revealing a complete lack of 'reading' about the ECHR!?
    Clearly, you need to consider more carefully the context of what you read before trying to advise others: The above 'sentence' (from #254) is a part of an entire paragraph pointing up the absurdity of the ECHR doing anything to Switzerland that does not involve the Swiss Citizen and therefore people who voted 'for/against' the ban.

    As for your lesson in a Courts supra-National Judicial powers via "Country A" and "Country B": All I note is that as is usual with your type of defence of Human Rights and the Courts meant to uphold them, you have good deal to say and are very brave in your condemnation of the 'signatory nation' and cringe away with absolutely nothing to say about "Saudi Arabia" etc. In fact you have not even got the nerve to acknowledge Saudi Law breeches HR! According to you it is "supposed", and yet you have no doubts about Switzerland.

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  • 258. At 10:16am on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Afterall, where in all your legal Judgements does it say Referendum are illegal?"

    The ECHR judges don't really care how a national measure has come about: parliamentary act, governmental act, through popular referendum.

    The only thing the ECHR judges look at is conformity with the ECHR. The fact that a national measure was enacted through a popular referendum does not give it a special status before the ECHR.

    It's obvious that democratic processes are governed by Law, because they only exist through law. Part of the Law are fundamental human rights and freedoms. Even the outcome of popular referendums need to respect those.

    Re "So, when I wrote, "...if it (ECHR) seeks by Law to punish the Nation of Switzerland..", I was obviously revealing a complete lack of 'reading' about the ECHR!?"

    Well, I don't know why anybody would otherwise want to bother writing about situations that are legally impossible to arise.

    Re "As for your lesson in a Courts supra-National Judicial powers via "Country A" and "Country B": All I note is that as is usual with your type of defence of Human Rights and the Courts meant to uphold them, you have good deal to say and are very brave in your condemnation of the 'signatory nation' and cringe away with absolutely nothing to say about "Saudi Arabia" etc. In fact you have not even got the nerve to acknowledge Saudi Law breeches HR! According to you it is "supposed", and yet you have no doubts about Switzerland."

    In my abstract example, it's quite obvious that country A matches Switserland. Because you try to argue that we needn't bother about possible legal problems in Switserland (country A) because the problems in country B (Saudi Arabia) are far greater. And it's quite natural that I used 'supposed' as this supposed breach by Switserland has not been established yet by a Judge (cf. presumption of legality).

    The comparison between Switserland and Saudi Arabia doesn't help anyone forward. Not even the oppressed people in Saudi Arabia, because in the end you say "We needn't care about any breaches of human rights".

    What if tomorrow the UK or France starts to torture suspects in criminal trials. Will you refere to North Korea and dismiss comlaints aboute those torturing practices in Europe?

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  • 259. At 10:21am on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    I see there is a 'new' character on the block!

    However, until #9 at EU Back to the Future is acknowledged as a very unfortunate error I can't see myself engaging in any debate.

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  • 260. At 11:30am on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Not really new :) The BBC just only now changed my name into the one I asked weeks ago.

    It was a very unfortunate error, that is for sure.

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  • 261. At 1:17pm on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Yes, it was so "unfortunate" you tried excusing it and then repeating the "error" in #213 on here: I see that has gone the way of the #9.

    Maybe it will dawn that when the 'unfortunate error' in #9/#213 is taken with the "BS", "STFU" etc. asides, many who Comment on here find 'respect' is the 'missing link' in a whole series of contributions.

    Is the lesson learned?

    We shall all see, shall we not.

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  • 262. At 1:22pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Can I just bring the debate back to the real issue. We've all got a bit sidetracked in our debates. Can people give some answers to these questions? I think we'll probably find that most of us agree on most of the answers.

    Is banning minarets on mosques a good idea?
    I don't think so, it's just a religious symbol. The people that see somthing more in it have issues with the religions image not with the minarets themselves.

    Are there some cases where a minaret shouldn't be allowed?
    Of course there are, the same way there are some places where an advertising board, a church spire, a tower block, a factor, a power station or even a house would be inapropriate. But they should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

    Is it a fair thing to do?
    Well it targets a specific aspect of a specific religion. As I've said before I don't think it's ever right to single out any particular religion or section of society. If minarets are banned why are church spires ok? If the reason is the spires are already there shouldn't the ban extend to new church spires? Its double standards, and wherever double standards exist it is unfair.

    Is it right for the Swiss goverment to ban minarets in light of the 57% to 43% vote?
    On a legal level yes it is. Of course it is.
    On a political level maybe not, there is the argument that 47% of votes were against the ban. Plus does anyone know the percentage of the people who voted? It may well be the case that only a quater of the Swiss population actually voted for the ban. I'm in danger of shooting my Welsh nationilist views in the foot here but, if 51% want something should it really be done? Yes its a majority, but is it fair to do it when a large proportion of people are specificall against it? I'm not so sure.

    Is is a discriminatory law?
    Yes. Don't think there should be more said than that.

    Does it conflict with the human rights laws around religious practice?
    I'm no legal expert, but theres convincing arguments that it is. It clearly limits the apearance of Mosques which does seem to fall into the right bracket.

    Should such a decision be put to a referendum vote in the first place?
    I don't think so. It's become a sensitive issue, very contravential even. The thing is, if the Swiss goverment had looked at the facts, avoided anti religious ideas and thought about the issue sensibly they could have come up with a bill limiting their size, impact on the local syline/scenery and places where they are categorically not allowed (historic sites or national park like areas). That wouldn't have been anywhere near contravertial.
    With a referendum you don't have conpramise options. It becomes a black and white argument. With issues like the devolution referenda in Wales and Scotland, maybe thats fine. The question does have a yes or no answer. The problem is, the question always gets lost. Alot of people vote for something that isn't the question. With contentious issues like this that is a serious problem that is not easily dealt with.

    Is this going to create, or cause additional, tension towards and from Swiss Muslims?
    Potentially, though not as much as most people think. Although, there is the potential for extremists to take the wrong message from the vote and see Switzerland and an anti Islam country. Plus many Swiss Muslims may feel there is a higher level of Islamophobia than probably really exists.

    Would we think it was a fair thing to do in our country?
    I really hope nobody says yes to this. I though the UK was based on he principle that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and that discrimination of any kind is wrong.

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  • 263. At 1:35pm on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re " Yes, it was so "unfortunate" you tried excusing it and then repeating the "error" in #213 on here: I see that has gone the way of the #9.

    Maybe it will dawn that when the 'unfortunate error' in #9/#213 is taken with the "BS", "STFU" etc. asides, many who Comment on here find 'respect' is the 'missing link' in a whole series of contributions.

    Is the lesson learned?

    We shall all see, shall we not."

    As I am not searching for conflict, I will not react to this new provocation.

    However I do invite you to address the points raised in my #258.

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  • 264. At 2:29pm on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    colonicus

    Re #262

    The turnout was around 59% of those eligible.

    As to the other questions you raise: I think I have exhausted my repertoire of answers on the 'legal', 'fair', 'political' issues raised by the Referendum result.

    I will just reiterate: We cannot pick and choose our 'Democratic values' according to when/how a democratically arrived at decision by the Citizens suits or does not suit our view of what is right and proper.
    The 'high-minded' on here seeking to press for the abandonment of the Swiss Citizens' democratic rights because these 'high-minds' know so much better are Undemocratic in principle and Antidemocratic in practise.

    No surprise therefore that many of these 'superior' minds are supporters of the venal, corrupt, undemocratic EU.
    They fail to win an argument about 1 measure that was fairly put to the Citizens by debate and the Ballot box, so they turn their backs on those Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities and on 'Democracy'.

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  • 265. At 3:59pm on 03 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    colonicus42, you're comments are regrettable because you have admitted that you are not fit to comment on these issues.

    As I have said before, I would prefer it if you refrained from comment entirely. We can all wait to hear what your beloved superior representative has to say.

    And yes, I note that you come from a working class family. That doesn't surprise me. It certainly doesn't mean that you can't support a system of repressive intellectual activity. Your fawning servility and unctuous regard for your betters is the defining characteristic of the English class system.

    You write:

    "I think we'll probably find that most of us agree on most of the answers."

    This is a disgusting articulation of herd mentality. You don't want truth, nor an opinion of your own. All you want is to identify the safest place in the herd and move towards it.

    Who cares what most people agree upon, and why should we care whether you have identified it? This is a forum for debate, not a referendum on the issues. The irony that you use this sort of language when condemning an actual referendum on precisely these issues is profound.

    And I will say again, you think you can have the right to a respected opinion in this forum because you believe that your servility to your social betters grants you some kind of authority over your fellow commoners.

    It disgusts me. In future, make your points as an individual, and stop trying to blend in with the powerful herd. Most of all, drop your tone of superiority. Just because you are a loyal subject of a richer man, that does not give you any right to lecture your peers.

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  • 266. At 4:12pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    Re # 264

    So only 33.6% of the Swiss population actually voted to ban minarets.

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  • 267. At 4:17pm on 03 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "The thing you two seem to completely ignore is that the Swiss (like all other European states) have bound themselves to respect the ECHR AND the rulings of the ECHR.

    So basically the European people have already said that Strasbourg has the power to lecture them. The ECHR didn't magically appear you know. The Swiss agreed to it, agreed to the competence of the judges and because of the international dimension have taken on an extra obligation; pacta sunt servanda."

    Caveo Latinorum probo, Jean Luc.

    "pacta sunt servanda" means "honour your contracts". So that cuts both ways. The Swiss never agreed to give up their rights to make law to the ECHR. Arguably the ECHR needs to honour the Swiss people's right to ignore its advice.

    What everybody refuses to grapple with here is the concept of the sovereign power. The ECHR can interpret human rights law, but nobody ever seriously suggested it had sovereign power. Even the ECJ rejects the idea that the ECHR can make decisions which are binding on the parties.

    The best the ECHR can do is offer an opinion on what it believes human rights law should be. It cannot seriously expect the Swiss people to place the judges of the ECHR above their own vote, or even above their own judges.

    I agree with CBW, this issue is no longer about minarets. It is about who has the sovereign power in Europe.

    Just as the elite of Europe cemented their strangehold on power, the Swiss people demonstrated the concept of democratic power. It is this articulation of power from the people which has alarmed the EU elite, not any concern for the muslim faith.

    Look at the way Mathiesan writes, for example. He refuses to debate whether or not the church should be allowed the protection of human rights, or whether these should be reserved only for humans. He refuses to debate why Germans should be jailed for debating the holocaust, whilst the ECHR remains silent.

    He refuses to debate anything, except his fear and anger at the will of the Swiss voters, and his desire that they should be over ruled by a foreign court.

    Mathiesan isn't interested in the issues, or the debate. He simply cannot stand the idea that a country can operate without the beneficial guidance of his preferred class of elites. He fears the EU will be seen for the rotten and corrupt structure that it is.

    The Swiss were not members of the Un for most of its existence, and I feel they should now abandon the ECHR, also.

    It is absurd to allow institutions like the ECHR to exist. They act as a smokescreen to real issues, and they only prosecute cases they feel like prosecuting. The Swiss have a civilized, humane and neutral society because of their domestic system of law. The rest of Europe has no such claim, and therefore should not be encouraged in its pathetic self serving games.

    If europe wants to pretend it has human rights when its population do not have a real voice and do not make their own laws, then that is its business.

    I think Switzerland should ditch the ECHR, and not get caught up in the fashionable fantasy called human rights in Europe.

    Not until Blair is arrested and put on trial for war crimes, at least.

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  • 268. At 4:54pm on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "The 'high-minded' on here seeking to press for the abandonment of the Swiss Citizens' democratic rights because these 'high-minds' know so much better are Undemocratic in principle and Antidemocratic in practise."

    It's not about abandoning democratic rights. The ECHR will never say that the Swiss can't hold referendums.

    It can say that the result of this particular referendum is contrary to human rights. Human rights enshrined in the ECHR and to which the Swiss people have agreed to be bound by.

    The ECHR won't even stop Switserland from denouncing the ECHR, so you can not say anybody wants to force the swiss to abandon their rights.

    You misrepresent a lot of things.

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  • 269. At 5:27pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    265. At 3:59pm on 03 Dec 2009, democracythreat

    "As I have said before, I would prefer it if you refrained from comment entirely."

    Actually I'd prefer it if you refrained from commenting. As I've said before you take something somebody says, twist it out of context and then link it to something else.
    But you have the right to make you point heard, as do I. No doubt you would agree with freedom of speech?

    "And yes, I note that you come from a working class family. That doesn't surprise me. It certainly doesn't mean that you can't support a system of repressive intellectual activity. Your fawning servility and unctuous regard for your betters is the defining characteristic of the English class system."

    You're not surprised I'm working class? We why did you accuse me of looking down at the working classes and being part of the elite earlier then?
    Where's this support for 'repressive intellectual activity' I apparently have? All I'm saying is that in referenda on this sort of issue the facts get lost. If the decision gets made by a few people, who have been voted into that position by the people, then the facts are less likely to be dismissed. I am in no way saying that the way democracy works in the western world is perfect, I actually think it needs a good shake up as some very important fundamental issues are being forgotten.
    Incidentally I don't have a 'fawning servility and unctuous regard' for my 'betters' as you put it, certainly not after the expenses fiasco and the sacking of Proff Nutt. There are times where the people we have put our trust in fail us, where they do that it is usually a case where double standards are used (different rule for MPs and us, different rules on drugs that don't fit the relevant dangers etc.)

    You will notice a running theme in my posts. I believe in equality, fundamentally. If you were being persecuted because of a particular aspect, gender, race, religious belief, sexuality, even hair/eye colour I would defend your right to equality with my life. It's one of the most fundamental aspects of human existence in my opinion, and with the case of banning minarets I believe it has been forgotten.

    You write:

    "I think we'll probably find that most of us agree on most of the answers."

    This is a disgusting articulation of herd mentality. You don't want truth, nor an opinion of your own. All you want is to identify the safest place in the herd and move towards it."

    The point I was trying to make is comments like yours, and indeed mine in response, are not part of a constructive debate. We argue on semantics instead of focusing on the issue. I was merely trying to point out that in any debate off this sort, when you look at some of the fundamental questions, people arguing with each other agree on a lot of the answers. The debate is rarely between black and white, it is more black and blue i.e. very similar when looked at in a certain light.

    "And I will say again, you think you can have the right to a respected opinion in this forum because you believe that your servility to your social betters grants you some kind of authority over your fellow commoners."

    Personally I don't care if people respect my opinion. I really couldn't care less what others think of me. I don't believe I should be listened to anymore than other people or even you. I have the same right in this forum as you do i.e. the freedom to make my point (obviously within certain reasonable limits on use of bad language etc.)

    "It disgusts me. In future, make your points as an individual, and stop trying to blend in with the powerful herd. Most of all, drop your tone of superiority. Just because you are a loyal subject of a richer man, that does not give you any right to lecture your peers."

    I'm sorry that I disgust you by having views different to yours. On the point of being an individual and following the herd mentality, just because the herd is travelling in the same direction I wish to travel in doesn't mean I am following them. I hold many views that aren't part of the mainstream and go against the 'elite' as you put it.

    I suppose you think that because your direction doesn't match that of the herd your views carry more weight? It's like the classic alternative/emo kids mentality, 'look at me everyone, I'm soooo alternative, somebody pay attention to me'.

    I thought if more people agree with you then you are more likely to be right? Isn't it my point about referendums not being the best option in all cases the thing you object to most strongly?

    My opinion is not based on the principle of referendums it's based on the practice. As I've said they do work in pure yes or no debates like devolution, however they don't offer a compromise which in my opinion would have been more fitting in this case.
    As I've said referendums often end up with the actual question being forgotten in the debate. In the ideal world we would all vote on every change, we would all base our decision on the facts of the matter and leave our personal beliefs or prejudices at the door. But we don't live in an ideal world do we?

    One final point, what gives you the right to lecture me? I suppose you think you are superior to me, there is a definite air of superiority in your posts. Incidentally any tone of superiority was unintentional, I don't see it in my posts myself on reflection but I may be wrong and I apologise if I am. You are merely committing the crimes you accuse me of i.e. a superiority complex, a wish for your opinion to mean more than others and have your views agreed with and applauded.

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  • 270. At 5:29pm on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Colonicus42

    Re #266


    Oh please! Let's not go down that path yet again!

    The % of Polls debate already examined a number of times (re EU Eire 1st/2nd Referenda on Lisbon Treaty, EU 'Constitution', EU Parliament) gets nowhere because the basic statistical facts cannot be denied/altered from either perspective.
    Believe me, I have bashed away at the 'minority' voter mandate of the MEPs, but the 'pro-EU' always have their point of view and we just go in ever-decreasing circles of numerical numbness!

    In the case of the Switzerland Referendum on whether or not to ban minarets: A % of eligible Citizens voted. A % of eligible Citizens did not vote. A Majority % of voters voted 'yes', and a Minority % of voters voted 'no'.
    The % of voters that did not vote may or may not approve, but the one certainty is there is no way of knowing.

    If a Referendum is legally announced and all normal constitutional procedures followed prior to the Ballot, during the Ballot and after the Ballot then the Result arrived at is the 'Democratic' Result of those who participated.

    There are no 'ands', no 'ifs', no 'maybes', no 'on the other hand' etc.

    An election was held and a result declared.

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  • 271. At 5:34pm on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    democracythreat

    Re #267

    You wrote exactly how I see it and I am sure captured the essence of many others who oppose the EU and Courts of Law that would supplant 'Democratic rights and accountability' whenever the 'high-minded' feel the Citizens have not 'understood' the complex issues!

    Then you finished off with the "Blair" nonsense and almost defetaed much of your own argument!

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  • 272. At 5:38pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #268
    That was my point in bringin up the questions I did. Alot of the answers from people on either side of this argument would be the same.

    I probably should have added the question, "Do we have a right to tell the Swiss they shouldn't ban minarets?" to which the obvious answer is, as you've said, not if they decide not to be bound by the ECHR.

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  • 273. At 6:01pm on 03 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    Gentlemen;
    Let me first mention that in the afternoon hours I can only see the first appr. 140 contributions of this blog. The BBC server then stops the transfer.

    Secondly I do not have the time to refute the viewpoints of the entire group of right wing populists in Europe, also I do not see it as my job.
    It's a very long way to Tipperary.

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  • 274. At 6:20pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    #270

    I wasn't trying to say it was a reson for ignoring the result.
    Just putting the figure into context.

    I've not said that the Swiss do not have the right to make this decision, I've not said anyone else has a right to influence whether this becomes law (except the ECHR which the Swiss can choose to ignore if they like, their country their decision) all I've said is 'I think' it's the wrong decision, 'I think' its discriminatory and 'I think' there are alot of potential problems with putting such an issue to a public vote. Of course what I think is irrelevant, I'm not Swiss.

    The thing I don't understand is, where the result potentially creates double standards (potentially going against the ECHR, which the Swiss have chosen to go along with) why is the question even asked in the first place? And I don't mean why is it put to a referendum with this, I mean why was it a question. It doesn't seem to be an issue to me, and even if it was surely a compromise would have been a better solution for all concerned.

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  • 275. At 6:45pm on 03 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Hmm..

    "..right-wing populists.."

    It has a nifty catchiness, does it not?
    However, the accuracy of it is of course resting in that Citizen who would claim more knowledge, better understanding and more abiding concern for fellow Citizens rights under the Law than opportunistic 'popularism'.

    Thus, were those so labelled to make the rejoinder your uncalled for branding brings even antilogy into disrepute it may be you find the measure of how little respect you now have among those of us who would debate your honest made points.

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  • 276. At 6:46pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    267. democracythreat

    Finally you make some good points, although again you are guilty of twisting what someone has said.

    I actually agree with you in alot of what you say about the EU, however I am pro-europe.

    I totally agree that,
    "What everybody refuses to grapple with here is the concept of the sovereign power. The ECHR can interpret human rights law, but nobody ever seriously suggested it had sovereign power. Even the ECJ rejects the idea that the ECHR can make decisions which are binding on the parties."
    However where we disagree is that,
    "Just as the elite of Europe cemented their strangehold on power, the Swiss people demonstrated the concept of democratic power. It is this articulation of power from the people which has alarmed the EU elite, not any concern for the muslim faith."

    As was the whole point of my post at 262, even people who disagree on a subject will agree on alot of the fundamental issues involved. I notice that few people have bothered to answer the questions, maybe they don't need to, I'd just like to impress upon people the need to take a step back and think about things (I'll conceed cool_brush_work's point that he's made his answers quit clearly and eloquently previously and I agree one many of the issues but also dissagree on a few).

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  • 277. At 6:51pm on 03 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "You're not surprised I'm working class? We why did you accuse me of looking down at the working classes and being part of the elite earlier then?"

    colonicus42, you are not part of the elite, and I never suggested you were. The elite believe their opinions ought to be law. You don't. You aspire to have someone represent you. You are part of the servile worker class who fawn upon the elite in the hope of receiving a pat on the head from a priest.

    However you do look down upon the working class. You demonstrate this by suggesting that their representatives know better than they do, and then seeing fit to voice your own opinions.

    As Orwell noted in his essays, the class system is not imposed from the top down. It is the working people such as you who really make the class system endure. Your fear of not knowing your place in the world, the fear of change and new ideas, is what drives your insistence that your betters know better than you.

    And you impose that fear on others. That is exactly how the class system endures. From the bottom up. If people like you spoke to your lords the way you speak to me on this forum, it would finished very swiftly, and direct democracy would take its place, and the farming of human beings would end.

    You write:

    "One final point, what gives you the right to lecture me? I suppose you think you are superior to me, there is a definite air of superiority in your posts."

    As it happens, I do not think I am superior to you. I believe all human beings, beyond the profoundly disabled, are capable of incredible creativity and thought. I do not believe education displaces the value of experience, or that formal ethics are superior to informal morals.

    However, it was YOU who gave me the right to lecture you, and to speak down to you. You told me that you believed others knew more than you, and that you should be represented, rather than represent yourself.

    So, I am treating you the way you seek to be treated. I am behaving as if I know better than you, because you are adopting the pose of the ignorant idiot.

    Now you object, but why?

    Herein lies the basis for my accusations against your character. You object to me treating your opinions as inferior. You do not feel I should set myself up as your representative, the person who speaks for you because you can't speak for yourself.

    Because as far as you know, I am not of the right class. As far as you know, I am just another person, to be subject to your opinion on any given subject.

    But if I were standing next to you in my pinstripe business suit and Lord Hoo Hah came to greet me and ask about the status of trust law in Jersey following the Kaplan decision, you would fawn on my words and treat me as though I were a superior human being.

    I know your kind, colonicus. It is not me who looks down upon you. You look down upon yourself, and upon your peers.

    I find it immensely depressing, and wish you would would stop it.

    I wish you would have your opinion, and stand up for your right to have that opinion, regardless of who might be a member of what political part, and regardless of which school they went to.

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  • 278. At 8:47pm on 03 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    :o)
    A new proverb has been formed yesterday.
    On top of you "don't carry coal to Newcastle", and "you don't go to Tula with your own samovar (Russian ancient brass water heaters' production place) and "You don't go to foreign monastery with own scriptures", there is now:

    "You don't go to Switzerland with your own minaret" :o)))))

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  • 279. At 8:47pm on 03 Dec 2009, Colonicus42 wrote:

    277
    I really don't know why I'm bothering with this, you are obviously totally incapable to read/listen to others views without grasping one aspect you disagree with and insulting them for it. Try looking at the post at 276.

    "colonicus42, you are not part of the elite, and I never suggested you were. The elite believe their opinions ought to be law. You don't. You aspire to have someone represent you. You are part of the servile worker class who fawn upon the elite in the hope of receiving a pat on the head from a priest."

    They why say,
    "If you haven't the desire for the dignity of all people, please refrain from exhibiting the desire to tell the lower classes how to behave."

    Also the mention of a priest indicates that you haven't bothered to read my previous statements, what with me being a 'suffering atheist' as someone put it.

    Then again we would just be arguing on some minor point of your statement i.e. pointless and irrelevant.

    'However you do look down upon the working class. You demonstrate this by suggesting that their representatives know better than they do, and then seeing fit to voice your own opinions.'

    I have never said any such thing! All I have said is that we elect representatives to make decissions, we pick the person we think will do the best job for whatever reason. That person then makes the decisions, hopefully based on the facts of the matter, the various expert opinions, legal issues, economic issues, foreign relations and of course popular opinion. However it is the nature of politics that some decisions have to be made against popular opinion. I have repetedly stated that what I believe is that equality is fundamental as is the freedom of speech. However an elected representatives opinion will always carry more weight than mine or yours because they are elected. That doesn't make them better, or mean they know more (although we would like to think that they are better informed when making the decisisons than us) all it means is that people have chosen them for the job.

    I have never said I or others don't have a right to an opinion, I would stand up for both our right to have an opinion and express it. However everyone else has the right to ignore us totally or agree with us.

    You have taken me stating that elected representatives make decisions for the electorate and twisted it into me wishing to live in a dictatorship with no regard for myself or anyone else. Ok maybe I think referendums arn't the answer to everything, but that doesn't mean I disagree with the principle that goverment serves the people. They make decisions for us, but they have to make them 'for us', they are serving us. If we think they arn't doing a good job we don't vote them back in. If they do something we really disagree with we can go and tell them straight, one person doing that doesn't acheve anything and never should, but 700,000 doing so just might, even so the representatives have the right to ignore the protest.
    Sometimes where there is a yes or no situation that is fundamental to our way of life a public vote is a good idea. However on some issues, the unpopular decision is the best one once everything has been taken into account.

    "But if I were standing next to you in my pinstripe business suit and Lord Hoo Hah came to greet me and ask about the status of trust law in Jersey following the Kaplan decision, you would fawn on my words and treat me as though I were a superior human being.

    I know your kind, colonicus. It is not me who looks down upon you. You look down upon yourself, and upon your peers."

    I'm sure your pinstripe buisnes suit would be slightly more expensive than mine, maybe I wouldn't understand the specifics of the Kaplan decision and might not be that interested anyway. I'm sure I would respect your knowledge in that area and indeed view you as supierior in that specific knowledge.

    However what you are generally ignorant of is the fact that my buisness suit, though less expensive than yours would be nicely tailored. Mabye when discussing with my colleege about the limitations in assesing common general knowledge in the Windsurfer test in light of Pozzoli when decising on wheteher a patent application has the required inventive step I wouldn't express my opinion in proper English. Maybe the patent agent for Shell Oil I spoke to last week wasn't expecting someone with my lower class deminer to be able to constructivly explain why their application was not in order in such an eloquent manner.
    Incidentally the fact that I am a working class lad, 'done good', doesn't change the fact that I'm working class. It's all about where you come from and your attitude on life, I know loads of people on low wages iving in rough areas who are blatently middle class in their attitude and their upbringing.

    You claim to know my sort? I doubt that very much.

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  • 280. At 11:03pm on 03 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @COOL BRUSH WORK

    Re "Afterall, where in all your legal Judgements does it say Referendum are illegal?"

    The ECHR judges don't really care how a national measure has come about: parliamentary act, governmental act, through popular referendum.

    The only thing the ECHR judges look at is conformity with the ECHR. The fact that a national measure was enacted through a popular referendum does not give it a special status before the ECHR.

    It's obvious that democratic processes are governed by Law, because they only exist through law. Part of the Law are fundamental human rights and freedoms. Even the outcome of popular referendums need to respect those.

    Re "So, when I wrote, "...if it (ECHR) seeks by Law to punish the Nation of Switzerland..", I was obviously revealing a complete lack of 'reading' about the ECHR!?"

    Well, I don't know why anybody would otherwise want to bother writing about situations that are legally impossible to arise.

    Re "As for your lesson in a Courts supra-National Judicial powers via "Country A" and "Country B": All I note is that as is usual with your type of defence of Human Rights and the Courts meant to uphold them, you have good deal to say and are very brave in your condemnation of the 'signatory nation' and cringe away with absolutely nothing to say about "Saudi Arabia" etc. In fact you have not even got the nerve to acknowledge Saudi Law breeches HR! According to you it is "supposed", and yet you have no doubts about Switzerland."

    In my abstract example, it's quite obvious that country A matches Switserland. Because you try to argue that we needn't bother about possible legal problems in Switserland (country A) because the problems in country B (Saudi Arabia) are far greater. And it's quite natural that I used 'supposed' as this supposed breach by Switserland has not been established yet by a Judge (cf. presumption of legality).

    The comparison between Switserland and Saudi Arabia doesn't help anyone forward. Not even the oppressed people in Saudi Arabia, because in the end you say "We needn't care about any breaches of human rights".

    What if tomorrow the UK or France starts to torture suspects in criminal trials. Will you refere to North Korea and dismiss comlaints aboute those torturing practices in Europe?

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  • 281. At 06:31am on 04 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    Interested in the function of the ECHR became yesterday an example, which goes as a model.
    A German man with some special circumstances that are similar to those of 1.5 million fathers in the country has appealed to the court saying that his rights in the German legislation as a father are unacceptable. The verdict of the court supported his position, so now Germany has a verdict against it.

    Like the rest of the signatory nations Germany accepts to follow the verdicts from ECHR, and reactions from the German parliament came immediately: The legislation will be altered. (Readers of German can find many articles on the matter via Goggle.)

    Like a few other I would be surprised if this is different in Switzerland.

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  • 282. At 11:33am on 04 Dec 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    #235
    Cool-brush-work,

    ‘If it is the latter, your guess is absolutely as good as mine! Why would you conceive of the possibility I would know the mind of the Swiss Electorate anymore than yourself!?’

    Well, that was the point I was trying to make. I could not find any good reason why the Swiss would hold a referendum to vote-in a stupid law which bans the building a tower on a religious building. I suspected the voters acted out their fears in a useless piece of legislation which is not going to further their cause at all. But since you have always defended the referenda as being the mainstay of democracy, and the gold-standard for the way people give their say for the way their lives a governed, I thought you would help me by explain the great idea behind the above foolish story. As it turns out, you are at a loss yourself.

    What I want to point out is the fact that you cannot solve out complex issues by asking one simple question. If as a child you have played one of those games, where you are given the end result of a situation and you need to guess the whole string of events which led to it, by asking only questions which can be answered by yes or no, you would know how many questions this involves and how long it takes. It is the same with using a referendum, where the public say yes or no to a simple question which addresses one very small part of the problem at hand. The problem here is how do you solve out the big problem with one simple answer? If you want to know the answer to ‘life, universe and everything’, what do you do with an answer which say only ‘42’? How do you solve the problem of political Islam being incompatible with European values with a referendum which returns and answer ‘ban the building of minarets’?
    If you want to shape the future of Britain within a changing world, what do you do with an answer which only says ‘we do not want the Lisbon Treaty’ and nothing else?
    A referendum does not give solutions- it only expresses preferences. A referendum can block or endorse something, but what happens after that? Do you ask the people again to propose a plan for the future running of the country? Or do you turn to the elected politicians, the elite you so despise, and ask then to make a new plan? Despite what is often said, all these calls for the rights of people to have a say on how they live their lives is an empty gesture. In reality, people do not want to have to come up with the idea, they just want to vote on somebody else’s idea. Ask a person to write a plan for a new law which would govern the way the EU is run and they would rely that they are not qualified enough. They would say ‘I am not a politician or a lawyer’. But put forward a law written by somebody else, and this same person would demand the right to vote on it, despite not having even read it! And they will vote yes or no, without having to explain why or to even have an idea how things can proceed after the vote.
    I work for company where formal documents are created and go through formal review and approval process. The review process involves only people who know what it is all about and have taken part in the development. And they have to not only say yes or no, they need to provide extensive comments and describe the changes required, so that the document gets approved. They do not just say no and go back to their pints of beer, while the authors are left to wonder what to do next. As an author of such documents myself, I can say that it is a lot easier to review something which somebody else has written, than to come with one myself . And that a simple yes or no on the part of reviewers is no use at all; you need structural input from them. Which is something that does not happen in referenda. An idea gets rejected or supported without any clear reason why. As we saw with the Swiss referendum, a useless decision was taken, without nobody really having an idea why and how that is going to help anything.

    As usual, everything is not just black or white. Referendum can be useful sometimes, but only when a the problem at hand is simple enough, two (or more) options for solving it are available and everybody is asked to express preferences. When the problem is a complex one, requiring ideas and solutions instead of preferences, a referendum is a waste of time and money.

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  • 283. At 1:17pm on 04 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    282. Isenhorn

    "…If you want to shape the future of Britain within a changing world, what do you do with an answer which only says ‘we do not want the Lisbon Treaty’ and nothing else?"

    For each of the three main parties to stand a chance of winning in 2005, this question had to be in the manifesto*. Once in office the referendum commitment was cast aside under the thinnest of pretexts.

    The gulf between the desires of politicians and that of their electorate couldn't be plainer.

    *Under the original Lisbon alias 'Constitutional Treaty'.

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  • 284. At 2:48pm on 04 Dec 2009, dubh wrote:

    282. Isenhorn

    You are right to point out the deficiencies of democracy but I would like to point out that the UK system effectively consists of one, three-way choice every 5 years. Once you have voted-in your Lib, Lab or Tory government by checking the appropriate box with no supplementary comment, your democratic choice is made for the next 5 years. In Switzerland, they have half a dozen votes on half a dozen issues every year in addition to electing their government. It's not perfect, but they have 180 extra checkpoints during a governmental term that the British system does not. Which is likely to best represent the voice of the people?

    Furthermore, reviewing documents is not like balloting. A ballot is more like the final approval of a document after revision. At the end, everything resolves to a yes or no decision. The Swiss just have many-more go/no go points.

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  • 285. At 5:37pm on 04 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Alice, No. 278:

    Privet! (Multiple choice answer: a) the street name of the address from which Harry Potter gets rescued to Hogwarts; b) the name of a brand of vodka that was actually probably better than Gray Goose (my current favourite); c) misprint for a household object used to prevent hot items from leaving marks on wooden dining tables; d) misprint for a word referring to designations of confidentiality or restricted access.

    Love your example. Even the delightful definition of a Samovar. Easier to say "tea-urn" in English, which is the exact equivalent...

    Very much on the nose. Holiday greetings and all the best!

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  • 286. At 05:49am on 05 Dec 2009, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    This is an interesting string, for sure.

    To those of you who do not usually follow Swiss politics, a 59 % turnout is relatively high.

    To those who suggest that it is somehow against the law, or that the government shouldn't have let it come to a vote, and so on, you simply don't understand how Swiss hybrid direct democracy works. The rock solid cornerstone of Swiss democracy is that the people are sovereign at all times. The government simply can't keep any question from coming up, because the voters have an absolute right to put questions to a vote. This keeps political debate in Switzerland far more honest than in many other places.

    To those who simply oppose Direct Democracy as being mob rule, well, go visit Switzerland.

    It is one of the most orderly, well run countries on the planet. It has astonishingly little crime. It has very low unemployment. It has remarkably little poverty or urban decay. There is by most standards virtually zero corruption in public office. It is relatively advanced in terms of environmental policies. Swiss citizens have civil rights second to none. Public services are run efficiently. Public transit is on time and clean. The trains are not covered by grafitti. Homeless people do not sleep in the streets. Pensions are fully funded. The country has an outstanding schools system. It is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and tolerant.

    This is a country that handles very complex financial policies by popular vote, and does so with remarkably consistent success. It has been using direct democracy for roughly 160 years.

    The Swiss are among the most resolutely thoughtful, orderly, law abiding and sensible people on earth.

    These aren't a bunch of yokels.
    And Swiss voters don't put up with nonsense.

    This vote ought to be a wake up call.

    What it's about is that the Swiss read the news, and they have decided that what they see of "Islam" is simply inconsistent with their basic values of popular democracy.

    This ought to be prompting thoughtful people to look at the relationship of political ideologies and religious ideologies and see that they are, really, different only in the paint scheme.

    One poster pointed out that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. That was a very salient point. It is, at root, a point about negative externalities. "Freedom of religion" only makes sense if it comes with the rider that you have to accept the co-existence of other religions, and you cannot promote or condone the spreading of hatred or violence.

    ----------

    It isn't the first time voters have given a resounding "no" to Islam. In Ontario, two years ago, a provincial election was held in which the only issue that mattered was the politically suicidal promise by an opposition party to extend public funding to religious schools. (Irony of ironies, the proposal was backed most strongly by the Canadian Jewish Congress, which wants public funding for Jewish separate schools, and by the home-schooling evangelical Christians.)

    A thumping great majority of voters took one look at this and immediately formed a mental image of "Osama bin Laden Secondary School" and "Ayatollah Khomeini Collegiate Institute", paid for out of general tax revenues.

    As in Switzerland, the vote wasn't even close.

    We need to re-examine the tax exempt status of religion in our society; and we need to examine the political free-ride that religious groups claim and receive in the debate of public policy issues in our society.

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  • 287. At 07:17am on 05 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    BBC has yesterday published its own article on the case, where a German father at the ECHR in Strasbourg won a lawsuit against the German state. Readers of English only can therefore now get information on the court here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8395456.stm.

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  • 288. At 09:25am on 05 Dec 2009, Polaris wrote:

    #286. Interestedforeigner

    I found your last post very interesting and thank you for the insight on the Swiss. Particularly, the poster comment, 'freedom of religion includes freedom from religion'. This really does go to the nub of the matter.

    Although, it's a pity that it has come to the point in their nation that a vote which singles out a minority was required; it now presents an opportunity to bring out into the open the issues surrounding the lack integration of large portions of the Muslim community in European society and what just place, if any, fundemental Islam and the Islamist ideology has in Europe. I single out fundemental Islam and Islamist's because of their values and ideology- I do think this is where the issues lie. Followers of moderate interpretations of Islam take their place in society along side the rest of us and can accept the modern world and secularism, for example- most modern Turk's seem to manage it very well; the the very issue brought hundreds of thousands of of them onto the streets of Izmir a year or so ago when Abdullah Gul, a Islamist, was manoeuvred into the Presidents job.

    One sincerely hopes there is a great deal of soul serching going on in the Swiss Muslim community and that they are asking themselves just how and why the Swiss have voted the way they have.
    I think this might just present an opportunity for moderate Swiss Muslims to challenge the fundematalists and radicals in their community.

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  • 289. At 12:57pm on 05 Dec 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    130. At 11:14am on 01 Dec 2009, cool_brush_work

    It's interesting that you find my post "alarmistic". I was just pointing out the larger than expected number of islamophobics in CH, when most commentators were predicting a "no-ban" win and considering the right-wing SVP a marginal phenomenon: "Switzerland is the beacon of tolerance and civilisation, impossible that such an intolerant referendum pass etc."

    I say it's interesting that you find my post alarmistic, when the SVP campaign was based on demonising immigrants as dangerous terrorists, with minarets looking like missiles. Doas that sound reasonable to you? Not alarmistic at all? Legitimate fear? Or anything goes to whip the population into paranoia to get the Swiss establishment to notice SVP?

    Do you really buy in the conspiracy theory of the millions of fifth columnists sneaking amongst us as a forefront for an advance of the Islamic Caliphate?

    Do you really think that the white-sheep black-sheep allegory is just a bit of fun?

    You seem to have a slight skew here, assuming you're not a sympathizer of the BNP and the likes (in which case there's not much point discussing this), then you should be a bit careful before justifying the SVP.

    I never compared the referendum win to the 1933 arrival to power: I just mentioned that as a reminder that democracy can be easily subverted. Your argument trying to diminish the support of the Nazis in 1933 betrays a bit of ignorance of Weimar's republic electoral laws.

    Following your argument many legislatures in the UK itself (including the current one) are to be deemed "not democratic" because the ruling party does not command the absolute majority of votes.

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  • 290. At 1:15pm on 05 Dec 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    140. At 12:12pm on 01 Dec 2009, KateHowie wrote:

    "Sharia law is barbaric and has no place in a western society and is a reason many muslims want to live in a western society - they have no more desire for sharia (civil or criminal) Than I have for a return to canon law."

    Interesting (and most likely true) observation.

    But what's your point?

    Do you want the Swiss to ban church towers next because canon law sucks?

    When they discouraged the building of new churches and mosques in the USSR, most of those now arguing for a ban, were up in arms to defend "religious freedom".

    What happened to them?

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  • 291. At 1:25pm on 05 Dec 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    286. At 05:49am on 05 Dec 2009, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    "To those who simply oppose Direct Democracy as being mob rule, well, go visit Switzerland.

    It is one of the most orderly, well run countries on the planet. It has astonishingly little crime. It has very low unemployment. It has remarkably little poverty or urban decay. There is by most standards virtually zero corruption in public office. It is relatively advanced in terms of environmental policies. Swiss citizens have civil rights second to none. Public services are run efficiently. Public transit is on time and clean. The trains are not covered by grafitti. Homeless people do not sleep in the streets. Pensions are fully funded. The country has an outstanding schools system. It is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and tolerant."

    Sounds like a cool place to live. I would move there, were it not for those 4 minarets (which you cheekily don't mention in your "Vister la Suisse/Besuchen der Schweiz/Visitate la Svizzera/Visitey a Suissa" brochure).

    However, if the next SVP referendum is about removing the 4 early minarets, I might change my mind.

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  • 292. At 5:12pm on 05 Dec 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    maria-ashot @285
    I guessed a./ Privet drive of course. Also wondered in my time why a Russian word is in the Harry Potter beginning but then people in the knowing explained me it's a nasty short bush type called "Priviet" in Englsh, the very opposite to the Russian mening of "friendly and welcome", and thus helps to describe atmosphere of the house where poor Harry Potter lived. Approximately.

    May be there was a vodka brand called "Privet" as well, no idea.
    and surely "Priviet/be welcome" is opposite to "entrance ferboten". forbiden,
    but what is it with "household objects use to prevent etc." I thought these are "coasters"?
    Anyway, xxx Alice

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  • 293. At 6:25pm on 05 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    289. lacerniagigante

    "...many legislatures in the UK itself (including the current one) are to be deemed "not democratic" because the ruling party does not command the absolute majority of votes..."

    This is true in England where the Conservatives won more votes than Labour in 2005. The latter were spared defeat though unequal constituency sizes and the votes of the other constituent parts of the UK. I wonder if the English electorate is ready to be outvoted both in the UK, and now thanks to Lisbon, in the EU.

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  • 294. At 6:37pm on 05 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    @293. At 6:25pm on 05 Dec 2009, rg wrote:
    Re "I wonder if the English electorate is ready to be outvoted both in the UK, and now thanks to Lisbon, in the EU."

    The Lisbon Treaty doesn't change much in this respect.

    BS alert!

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  • 295. At 6:47pm on 05 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    294.

    "...The Lisbon Treaty doesn't change much in this respect..."

    Of course not, how silly of me, got carried away. Ten years in the making and "...The Lisbon Treaty doesn't change much in this respect..."

    QMV?

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  • 296. At 8:08pm on 05 Dec 2009, Jean Luc wrote:

    Re "Of course not, how silly of me, got carried away. Ten years in the making and "...The Lisbon Treaty doesn't change much in this respect..."

    QMV?"

    QMV already existed on most issues.

    Still, although QMV is the de iure rule, most decisions (even if they can be voted by QMV) are voted by unanimity, because the member states don't like to outvote each other on sensitive or important issues.

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  • 297. At 10:03pm on 05 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    296. Jean Luc

    "...QMV already existed on most issues..."

    According to this http://en.euabc.com/word/783 Lisbon added nearly twice as many QMV articles as any previous Treaty (including The Treaty of Rome) apart from The Constitutional Treaty (which coincidentally, if not unsurprisingly, is listed as having exactly the same number).

    Personally I'd have no issue with this if we were allowed the vote Labour offered in their 2005 General Election manifesto.

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  • 298. At 00:06am on 06 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mathiasen, your example of the process of German law is interesting.

    Let us examine what happened. The german government made laws. A citizen went to the ECHR to challenge a law the government had made.

    The ECHR made a ruling.

    The german government (NOT the ECHR) then changed the law because it agreed with the ECHR.

    So in Switzerland, exactly the same process will occur. The Swiss people made a law. If someone goes to the ECHR, the ECHR will make a ruling.

    And then the Swiss people will be at liberty, just as the German government was, to change the law.

    You see, the ECHR is providing advice to the body that holds the power to make the law. it is not making the law.

    And that will happen in Switzerland, too. The ECHR will say what it thinks, and then the Swiss will have the option to change their laws.

    And they might. But they might not, too.

    And that is no different from Germany or the UK, or the ECJ or whoever.

    There is nothing superior about the german system. It is just a different body which makes the law.

    Now for everyone who argues against direct democracy, get out your googles and see if you can find the origin of this quote:

    "Democracy has lost its spirit and decayed into a mechanism which insists only on numerical superiority without considering the essence of human beings. It says the majority is all good. I do not agree, because it is the majority which is the precise cause of contemporary decadence. "

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  • 299. At 07:49am on 06 Dec 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    We are not only reading problematic viewpoints here. We also have to deal with horrible accounts. The one in #298 is no difference.

    1) The ECHR process cases of individuals, so also with the German father.
    2) The German government has not changed the law. The idea that a signatory state changes its law two hours after a verdict in Strasbourg is so naive that I hardly know what to say. Not even a comma has been moved, but members of the legislative body have said that they will now indeed take a look at the matter. It will most likely lead to changes in German law.
    3) Due to the contradictions now existing in its legislation Switzerland is most likely to get a problem via Strasbourg. It shall be interesting to follow the case.

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  • 300. At 1:10pm on 06 Dec 2009, BZ wrote:

    All this European multicultural views on this thread are just shocking. I can't believe I thought that the U.S. was more multicultural than Europe. Boy do I look foolish.

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  • 301. At 4:18pm on 06 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    299. Mathiasen

    "...Due to the contradictions now existing in its legislation Switzerland is most likely to get a problem via Strasbourg..."

    I wonder if subservience to the ECHR could end up being put to the Swiss - What price political independence?

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  • 302. At 7:49pm on 06 Dec 2009, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    301. At 4:18pm on 06 Dec 2009, rg wrote:

    299. Mathiasen

    "...Due to the contradictions now existing in its legislation Switzerland is most likely to get a problem via Strasbourg..."

    I wonder if subservience to the ECHR could end up being put to the Swiss - What price political independence?
    __________

    It is a basic founding principle of the Swiss Confederation that the Swiss will not bend to anybody's will but their own.

    The EU has misunderstood this completely, not least in the Lisbon treaty.

    Swiss government is based on the principle that power in all things rests in the hands of the voters.

    The EU is based on the principle of never allowing the voters any direct say if it can possibly be avoided, and then, even if there is a vote, hold another one if the voters don't do what the bureaucrats want. That is why there is for all practical purposes no democratic accountability in the EU.

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  • 303. At 10:05pm on 06 Dec 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mathiesan said:
    "2) The German government has not changed the law. The idea that a signatory state changes its law two hours after a verdict in Strasbourg is so naive that I hardly know what to say."

    Previously Mathiesan had said:
    "Like the rest of the signatory nations Germany accepts to follow the verdicts from ECHR, and reactions from the German parliament came immediately: The legislation will be altered."

    Sorry, Mathiesan, I had presumed we could take the german parliament at their word, and that the legislation will be altered. In other words, the decision to alter it has been made.

    Of course, you are correct. It is foolish to think the government can alter the law in two hours.

    It is also foolish to argue with an hysterical pedant, so I will desist.

    If you have a point worth making, I'm sure you will make it in due course, when you have calmed down.

    The point I was trying to make was simply that the ECHR has no power to make legally binding rulings, only the power to make rulings that the authorities in member states can take into account, if they wish. In germany that is your believed government, in Switzerland it is the people, whom you fear. But the power of the ECHR is the same in both states.

    In other words, the issue here is not that the ECHR might be ignored, it is WHO might ignore the ECHR.

    My own feeling is that you envy the Swiss, and this is why you get so excited about their referendums. While the german people are stuck in a system of corporate representation and sham democracy, the Swiss enjoy real freedom. For two peoples who live side by side and speak the same language (more or less), that must be hard to take.

    I have long been puzzled by the german attitude to the Swiss. Germans always tell me the Swiss speak slowly, and that this is because they think slowly. The implication is that the Swiss are slightly retarded cousins of the great german people. That makes no sense to me. I mean, the Swiss speak three languages, and they have a much higher standard of living than the germans.

    This friction between the Germans and the Swiss is sad, because I would hope that the German people might be the first to rebel against the corporate democracy imposed on them after world war 2, and implement direct democracy.

    To me, that is where a worldwide movement towards direct democracy might feasibly begin.

    But instead, the attitude of the germans I meet is one of deluded pride. They are not as rich, they have more crime, more pollution, way more unemployment, and less civil rights. They are occupied by a foreign military power.

    But still they look down on the Swiss. Crazy.

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  • 304. At 03:04am on 07 Dec 2009, bozeman wrote:

    I think the outcome of the vote is the same as it would be for a vote in an Islamic country on whether or not Christian Church steeples should be allowed in that country.

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  • 305. At 03:36am on 07 Dec 2009, Joe Carnavale wrote:

    Borders, language and culture are being eroded. The people have spoken in Switzerland. Islam is trying to impose itself in a country where it's not wanted. There should be respect for a culture of a country. How funny it will be seeing people dressed looking like penguins skiing around the mountains. If I have insulted muslims then get real. Your home is and never has been Switzerland. Please don't say you are there to work. You have no heritage in Switzerland.For goodness sake get real. wake up people. Human rights have destroyed all one holds dear. Tradition, values. Borders language and culture.

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  • 306. At 5:26pm on 07 Dec 2009, Interestedforeigner wrote:

    303. DT

    There are lots of national prejudices and stereotypes involved.
    The relationship of the Swiss to the Germans is a lot like the relationship of New Zealanders to Australians, Canadians to Americans, and so on.

    The Swiss often regard the Germans as loud and pushy. The Germans often regard the Swiss as smug. They both tend to regard the Austrians (at least those outside Vienna), as being country bumpkins. Schwyzer-Deutsch speaking Swiss tend to think of Austrians very much the same way that some Swedes think of Norwegians.

    Note, too, that while almost all Swiss are at least functionally bi-lingual, there are odd quirks in the relationship. More than once we have present when French speaking Swiss and German speaking Swiss chose to converse in English, rather than in either German or French, as if somehow it was preferable that both be at an equal disadvantage.

    We have seen the same thing between Schwyzer-Deutsch speakers and Germans, where they will choose to speak in English to each other rather than in German. Seemed a bit odd at first, but (as was explained to me later by a Swiss) the point of it is that it allows certain cultural prejudices to be present in the room, without anyone saying anything about it out loud, and without anyone being embarrassed about how the other fellow speaks German. Symbolically, it is the difference between Kartoffel and Erd-Apfel. Both words mean "potato", and yet ...

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  • 307. At 4:26pm on 08 Dec 2009, Joe Carnavale wrote:

    In reply to TO post 306 from Interestedforeigner
    I think you posted in response to another topic. The topic in this section is to do with Swiss Citizens voting to ban the buiding of minorets.

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