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Friday, December 4, 2009

UPDATED: Well that didn't take long

In case you thought it was just the Muslims...

I am taking bets on how long before we start getting blamed for swine flu.

Ah, Christendom.

Edited to add:

Tone is hard to determine here in Internet-land, so I expect it's not clear that mine is wry: deeply irritated, but not actually scared.

The minaret thing is a head-smackingly there-you-go-again example of Swiss (and European in general, I think) ignorance, privilege, foolishness, self-righteous self-centeredness, and religious narrow-mindedness, and it is a good reminder that there are a lot of things, like religious diversity, that Europe is stupid about and America is smart about (to counterbalance those things, like urban planning, public transportation, and health care, that go the other way).

But I don't actually think anyone is planning Kristallnacht 2.0, and at this historical moment Jews and Muslims are still much physically safer in Switzerland than almost anywhere else in the world -- not because Switzerland is real friendly towards Jews and Muslims, because it's not, but just because the absolute rate of violence in Switzerland is extremely low.

The current attack on religious minorities is stupid and evil. It's disturbing. It's a dangerous precedent. And it is not hard, as a student of history and SF writer, to construct a plausible scenario which leads to pogroms (I'd start with climate-driven massive population displacement and an economic collapse which makes the current slowdown look like a boom, and throw in a real pandemic...)

It must be opposed firmly.

But nor did I mean to panic anybody. At this historical moment, it's not cause for concern for our physical safety.

I'm going in to Aviva's and Noah's classes on Friday to teach the kids about Chanukah, and the kids and the teachers will all be thrilled, and so will the kids' parents... even though some of those parents undoubtedly voted to ban minarets.

Most people who voted to ban the minarets did so not thinking that they were terrorizing their Muslim neighbors, but that they were taking a firm stand against Islamic radicalization. The SVP played the campaign very smart, claiming not to be against Muslims or mosques, which are fine and neighborly, but only against minarets, which, they claimed, are well known to be symbols of Islamic rule... and we want none of that around here.

This allowed thousands of the Swiss in relatively liberal places like Basel-land -- my neighbors and co-workers -- to express their deep unease and fear of the foreign (their fear and helplessness from watching the wars in Iraq and Israel and Palestine and Afghanistan on TV, their fear of going down to Kleinbasel and having it be full of food and languages that they don't understand, their fear of losing what is precious and distinctive about their small country if they are overwhelmed by a tide of immigration -- and this vote has to be understood in the context of Schengen and Personenfreiz├╝gigkeit) -- at the ballot box, and tell themselves (those who cared to do so) that they weren't being anti-Muslim.

The nice Muslims who go to little quiet mosques are fine; their kids are in kindergarten with the Swiss kids, after all, learning about Santa Claus and making Advent calendars; surely, given the effort of determined professionals, they can be trained to behave properly.

They just didn't want any Muslims who want scary, anti-woman, domination-oriented, warlike symbols of power, like minarets. Only symbols of peace and love and togetherness, like, you know, cathedrals are okay. No hegemonic domination there!

(It's almost exactly analogous, come to think of it, with the spin deployed in the US to allow people voting against gay marriage to tell themselves they're not being anti-gay. "We're not against that nice gay guy Jim at work, and we think it's great that he loves his partner Bob... we just don't want them to dominate us and destroy Western civilization. Is that too much to ask?")

Kathryn Cramer commented in the previous post that the Swiss motivation might have been orderliness, and I think that's how many voters represented it to themselves, even though the underlying motivation was fear. All about drawing clean lines about what we'll stand for. They just wanted to nip this Taliban thing in the bud.

The 2009 minaret ban is to Kristallnacht as the 2009 swine flu is to the Black Death. There's no extraordinary danger at the moment; but that doesn't mean we should get too comfortable about the future.

Posted by benrosen at December 4, 2009 10:21 AM | Up to blog

This post and your previous one about the minarets frightened me deeply.

Posted by: haddayr at December 5, 2009 10:09 PM

Sorry I scared you. Note clarification!

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at December 7, 2009 12:22 PM
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