Statement to the press by the Presidency of Religious Affairs concerning the Swiss referendum of November 29 , 2009 on the prohibition to build new minarets
The Presidency of Religious Affairs Diyanet- hereby considers it necessary to share with public the following statement in relation to Switzerlands referendum on the construction of Minaret on 29 November 2009.
The Freedom of religion and conscience, the freedom of expression and the other rights related to these fundamental liberties are of basic human rights. Neither the cancellation or the violation of basic human rights can be subject to a referendum nor the restriction or limitation of these rights by any nation, state or organisation is acceptable.
The practice of a referendum questioning the right to construction of minaret -an integral part of mosque architecture- and the right to construction of mosque which for the Muslim minority living in Switzerland are the expressions of `freedom of religion` and `worship` is a serious damage to inter-religious and inter-cultural relations. Such a practice will be remembered not only as a clear sign of intolerance towards Islam and Muslims in Switzerland but also seems to be a tragic expression of backing down from the level of liberties and rights attained by humanity and especially European nations. Furthermore, the feelings of Muslims all around the world have been deeply hurt due to ruthless efforts, prior to the referendum process, not only relating Islam to violence but also making religious sentiments a subject of controversy over minarets despite the fact that minarets carry no meaning other than an expression of the oneness of Creator in Islamic faith, culture and civilization. After all, the real problem is perhaps not the result of the referendum itself but that a universal human right is made into becoming a matter of dispute and vote, and in doing so, an example of religious discrimination is witnessed in a democratic-constitutional state.
The freedom of religion can not be reduced to the right to believe in values kept only in ones inner world. The expression of faith, the free practice of religious duties, the right to have a place of worship within the framework of property rights are all important parts of religious freedom. When and if a majority in society only recognizes a minority to the extent that they have been isolated or assimilated, and allow them limited liberties to the extent that cultural differences have been removed, then such practice of liberties are not only superficial and manipulative but also characterizes a policy of double standard.
The history of mankind has made significant progress in the field of liberties and has reached to a common consciousness based on the fact that the assurance of social harmony and peace can only be possible by securing and advancing the basic human rights. The civilised world will not permit to impede the progress in the field of liberties by certain societies whose capacity is not enough to comprehend and appreciate the other.
The freedom of religion has been clearly stated under the article 48 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and under the article 9 entitled The Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion and the article 14 entitled Prohibition of Discrimination of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it has been a big misfortune that the aforementioned referendum has coincided with the signing of Lisbon Agreement which aims at realising higher objectives in comparison to previous documents on human rights and freedom of religion.
We believe that this problem will properly be solved within international law and democratic process in Europe. All religious institutions, civil society organizations, and human right associations will have to make serious efforts in this matter. The future solutions concerning the referendum which is seriously criticized by people of common sense all over the world will give significant signs about the future of Europe with its almost 30 million Muslim citizens.
As a matter of fact, our hopes have been strengthened thanks to the worldwide condemnations and the objections against this meaningless referendum by 43 per cent of the Swiss population with the slogan of The sky above Switzerland is big enough to welcome all places of worship. No to intolerance. No to the minaret-banning initiative.
We have high confidence in not only that Muslims living in Europe will search for their rights in a way that resonates with the dignity of Islam and its wisdom but also that European Muslims will contribute to this process in a constructive way.
We sincerely bring this statement to the attention of the general public.
The Presidency of Religious Affairs