(source: VOCfm Online/ Islam Online)

A Swiss businessman appalled by the recent blanket ban on the construction of mosque minarets in his country has build a mock minaret at his building near the western city of Lausanne in protest at the ban. "It was scandalous that the Swiss voted for the ban," Guillaume Morand, who owns a chain of shoe stores, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday, December 10. "This is shameful."


The businessman, who is not a Muslim, explained that the he had constructed the mock minaret to protest the ban and send a message of peace. More than 57 percent of Swiss voters backed on Sunday, November 29, a far-right call for a blanket ban on the construction of minarets, a surprise result to the government and Swiss Muslim. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — Switzerland’s biggest party — had forced a referendum under Swiss regulations on the issue after collecting 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters.
The SVP claims minarets are a symbol of Shari`ah and are thus incompatible with the Swiss legal system. The campaign poster showed the Swiss flag covered in missile-like minarets and the portrait of a woman covered with a black chador and veil. There are nearly 160 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, mainly in disused factories and warehouses. Only four of them have minarets, none of them used to raise the Azan, the call to prayer, which is banned. Islam is the second religion in the European country after Christianity, with Muslims estimated at nearly 400,000. Dangerous Morand blamed other political parties in Switzerland for not having campaigned against the far-right motion ahead of the referendum. "They were all against it but they did not explain the issue clearly to the country," he said. The result comes as a major surprise and a slap in the face of the government, which has strongly opposed the ban. The parliament, all major political parties, Roman Catholic bishops and Jewish rabbis had all opposed the ban and urged voters to vote it down. Morand asserted that the mock minaret, which has been in place since Tuesday, has generated a lot of interest. He will wait and see before deciding if further action was needed to push his point. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) urged Swiss authorities Thursday to annul the vote, warning it could fuel similar moves across Europe. "The Swiss authorities should use parliamentary and judicial means to reverse the decision," Pakistani ambassador Zamir Akram told AFP. Envoys from the pan-Islamic body's 56 member states brought the request to the Swiss ambassador to the UN in Geneva Dante Martinelli. Akram warned that the Swiss move could encourage similar actions in other European countries. "The threat can also spread to other countries in Europe where there are right-wing groups who want also to target the Muslim community. This can cause violence against Muslim communities in these countries," he said. "There were already some attacks, some vandalism against the mosque here in Geneva, it's a very dangerous trend." The Swiss referendum had already started echoing across Europe, with calls in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy for similar measures to ban minarets. Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Dutch Freedom Party, urged his government to make a similar referendum possible in the Netherlands. In Belgium, the right-wing Vlaams Belang said it would submit a decree to the Flemish regional parliament to ban minarets in the country. The anti-immigrant Northern League also called for minaret ban in Italy.