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When Church Bells sound in Saudi Arabia, then Minarets can rise in Europe

Raheel Raza,

TORONTO - Voters in Switzerland approved a referendum last week to ban the building of new minarets on mosques. Nearly 58% of voters, and all but four of the country's 26 regions, supported the initiative, with support for the ban reaching 70% in some regions.

Today, throughout the Muslim world, leaders have condemned this move and are of course in the usual way, calling for their own ban on the Swiss. Are we are going to stop eating Swiss cheese and chocolate or are we going to ban Swiss precision?

Perhaps there is no better time than today for Muslims to understand the deeper, more profound implication of the Swiss move, and use it as a red flag to bring about internal change.

Swiss charmer and speaker Tariq Ramadan who was recently in Canada, flowed eloquent about the beauty of Islam, but failed to mention the self-inflicted problems besieging Muslim communities of the West, especially Europe, which are swept under the rug for benefit of mass audiences.

And herein lies the problem. Yes, Islam is a beautiful message for me and many fellow Muslims. But it may not be so for the person on the street and this is what we must accept and learn to live with. The beauty of Islam has to be shown in our daily interactions with diverse groups of people, not in our overt in-your-face religiosity or the cloth coverings on our face.

We have become a people who carry our “Muslim-ness” to the extreme, and the only community I know who insist on using religious terminology in our daily rhetoric with non-Muslims who have no idea what this means. In doing so, we demonstrate a lack of vision and continue to be intolerant of “the other”, while making unreasonable demands of our own.

In Canada we have a saying that what goes round, comes around. Well, in Europe the tides are changing so fast that unless Muslims wake up and smell the Nescafe, they’ll be swept away into an abyss of their own making.

The solution is not rocket science.

How hard is it for Muslims to understand and accept that Islam is not a stand-alone faith and neither is the message exclusive. Islam is the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths, yet Muslims are the most spoilt and ill behaved of the three. Unless Muslims learn to extend their hand to other faiths in total unison, they can’t progress.

Muslims must also understand that every criticism of their acts is not Islamophobia (a term too widely and easily used for my comfort). First they should understand that the term Islamophobia means “fear of Islam” and yes there is fear of Islam and Muslims and we don’t seem to be doing much to eliminate it. Our knee jerk reactions and instinct to defend Muslims, no matter what they do, is back firing. We are not the keepers of our faith. Our only duty is to learn to live in peace and harmony with other human beings, which we are not doing very well.

For example, rarely do Muslims take time to discuss and debate how non-Muslims are treated in Muslims lands. If Muslims in the West were restricted in their worship and treated like third-class citizens, then perhaps they would understand what discrimination and harassment really means. We love to shout “racism” at the drop of a scarf, yet remain quiet when others are mistreated.

So in Switzerland, there is a ban on building new minarets. Does this impact or harm Islam? No. Minarets were not even part of the first mosque of Islam and were incorporated into Islamic architecture, much after the death of the Prophet when Islam was becoming a political dynasty. More importantly, from a spiritual perspective, the creator does not reside inside domes or minarets, but in our hearts.

Actually, before we start to build minarets, first we have to learn to build bridges of understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This article is dedicated to our Swiss friend, the late Joseph Egger who taught family and friends, the meaning of giving without prejudice and beyond barriers.