New York – December 1, 2009 - AJC expressed dismay at the results of a November 29 referendum in Switzerland banning the construction of minarets on new mosques. The measure was strongly promoted by the extreme right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which has an established track record of agitating against immigrants and minorities.
“The referendum result amounts to an attack on the fundamental values of mutual respect,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “While there are certainly understandable concerns in Europe over Islamist extremism, these cannot be legitimately addressed through a blanket assault on Muslim communities and their religious symbols.”
Nearly 60 per cent of voters cast ballots in favor of the measure. Organizations opposing the measure included the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, with which AJC has an association agreement.
Muslims compose about 5 per cent of the Swiss population, the majority of them originating from former Yugoslavia. Many Swiss Muslims are also of Turkish origin and have been settled in the country for several decades.
“For the Swiss People’s Party, as for all far right parties in Europe, any group that is different in terms of its appearance or its language or its cultural or religious traditions is regarded as a target,” Harris said. “We stand firmly against these rabble-rousing politics in the name of pluralism and democracy.”