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Posted in: World Events, Islam

Published on Dec 07, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Minarets and the Concept of Reciprocity


The mainstream media continue to decry the Swiss referendum on minarets. To date, The New York Times has published one editorial and five additional articles on the subject, including one today. Perhaps The Paper of Record views the 30% of the electorate who actually voted in Switzerland as traitors to their own multicultural, anti-racist, politically correct belief system.

The problem is that the Islamic world today does not share this hallowed belief system. Actually, it never did. Rather, it has destroyed or built over synagogues, churches, and temples, and denied that such infidel places of worship ever existed. Note the fevered Palestinian attempts to claim the Temple Mount, where once the ancient Jewish Temple stood, as really "Islamic."

The Islamic world does not allow new synagogues or churches to be built. Further: Muslim fundamentalists currently persecute, torture, and murder those Christians who dare remain in the Middle East, and they kidnap, forcibly convert, and "marry" their very young daughters.

It is time to demand—or at least to expect–reciprocity. Otherwise, we are really being racist in having one (higher) standard for Westerners and another (much lower) standard for the barbarians.

Granted: The West is not as barbaric and intolerant as the Islamic world; we do not willingly wish to become intolerant. Yet, tolerating the intolerant is unwise, or as the Jewish sages tell us: Being kind to the cruel results in cruelty to the kind.

Thus, if there can be no churches or synagogues built in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.—then why should the Swiss or the Europeans allow new, blockbuster size mosques, and sound-splitting loudspeakers emanating from minarets? According to Imam Kurdi, writing in the Arab News,

"And let's not be hypocrites. If you held a referendum in a Muslim country asking whether the construction of new church steeples should be permitted, you are also likely to get an overwhelming no. So let us not brand this a Swiss phenomenon and let us also remember that it is not the majority of the Swiss population that supported the ban but the majority of those who voted, which if you do the maths comes to 30 percent of the population." (Thanks to Esther for bringing this to my attention.)

Let me clear. I am one of those westerners who has "dreamed East." And, as a Jew, I have an undeniably dangerous but familial kinship with Arabs and Muslims. I find the Muslim call to prayer beautiful—but only if I refuse to understand that, as an infidel, an American citizen and patriot, a Jew, a woman, and a Zionist, that my place inside that mosque is that of a sub-human, fair-game target for hatred or worse.

Jews in exile from Arab and Muslim countries have launched a beautiful, haunted literature, one in which they manifest nostalgia for the places which endangered them and forced them to flee. Often, the danger is minimized, the customs romanticized. I am thinking of Andre Aciman, Roya Hakakian, and Lucette Lagnado.

I am in favor of interfaith gatherings. Peaceful voices are sweet to my ears and yet: telling the truth is far sweeter than lying. The truth is:

Mosque and minaret building in Europe probably represent a refusal to integrate; a refusal to separate mosque and state. Perhaps it also signifies an intention to one day vote in Shari'a law as the law of the European land.

It is cause for concern.


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