Jewish leader says Swiss vote shows Europe’s growing anti-Muslim views

An official from the German Jewish Council warned on Wednesday that Switzerland’s vote to ban mosques with minarets was an expression of Europe's deep-seated aversion to Islam that was aggravating the integration of Muslims.

Jewish leader says Swiss vote shows Europe's growing anti-Muslim views
Photo: DPA

The council’s general secretary, Stephan Kramer, said that the referendum in the Alpine country on Sunday could be “neither euphemised nor re-interpreted.”

“With relative certainty, there’s not a single country (in Europe) that doesn’t have more or less similar fears of Muslims and they would have had similar results in a referendum,” he said.

Kramer encouraged a more open discussion about how such a referendum on basic rights could even come to a popular vote. The Swiss, Germans and others were not “born to hate foreigners or fundamentally against Muslims,” he said, adding Europeans were not engendering an atmosphere of trust.

“Those who want integration instead of assimilation, and really means it, must create a climate of mutual respect, acknowledgement and trust,” he said.

Ideas such as the “integration contracts” like the one proposed by Germany’s integration commissioner last month, headscarf bans and other “legal condescension” do not achieve this purpose, he said. Instead they are “damaging populist activism.”

While Muslims are regularly accused of an unwillingness to integrate or engage in dialogue, the majority of European society does “very little” to be hospitable or respectful, he said.

“A climate of trust can only happen if Muslims are naturally entitled to the right to their own religion, culture and language, and cultural diversity is considered to be a benefit and enrichment to our country and not a threat or burden,” Kramer said.

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