This is a guest post by Naeem, an artist friend. The post is a cull from a conversation regarding the recent ban in Switzerland imposed on building minarets.

In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam and undermined the country’s reputation for religious tolerance, the Swiss on Sunday overwhelmingly imposed a national ban on the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques, in a referendum drawn up by the far right and opposed by the government. The referendum passed with 57.5 percent of the vote and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.

Naeem: And now I’m thinking of the photographer I met, a few hours before the opening of the show “Im/Possible Communities” at Zurich Shedhalle. We sat in the caretaria with hot tea and free chocolates, and he told me “This ban vote will never pass. Not in Switzerland.” So much for that comfort.

But what about this poster. It is as if, as I said elsewhere, the right wing now has the best graphic designers?!

Sandy: Concerning the poster – as far as is can see all the critique is already in the mainstream media. It is a typical 20/30’es design – colourwise and by form. And it works very well, to downscale the opponent to a (dark) symbol– shadows, rocket-like minarets, flooding Switzerland. And most likely the posters will be more distributed by the media than actually hung in the streets?

N: Actually it was in many subway stations in Zurich when I was there. Right opposite was an ad for ALI KEBAP airlines. With a Turkish man in a fez holding kebab-spike in one hand, and flying the plane in the other. Travel there, but don’t let them come here.

S: Hmm, there are 4 minarets in Switzerland at this time – 2 more are about to be built. The ones wearing a tschador like this are saudis or emirates people who spend lots of money in Switzerland. Have you seen the anti minaret game – > http://www.minarett-attack.ch/

This battle is somehow already lost. The campaign from the SVP was successful, they managed to polarise quite well. And of course this is not about the actual minarets, not even the law which might be kicked by EU law in the end anyway. So this is already in a quite defensive setting at the first place, preaching to the converted…

I like the idea to enter it via the design question. Why dont we invite for a poster workshop. I think one has to step out of this setting of critique structure which already is existing and all over the place. One has to find the gaps in the discourse to intervene with impact. Else it will stay a symbolic autopilot in some way. Maybe fair enough for the art world, but not enough.

“things which are urgent – need time” g.p.c

29 thoughts on “Minarett-Verbot”

  1. I dont understand why so much is made out of this. The ban is only for minarets and not for mosques. Switzerland is a small country with a small population. Their sensitvities have to be understood.The poster is not in good taste. The negative image about muslims and Islam has been created by those who support islamic fundamentalism and by protests against the Danish cartoons. Immigration is another issue.
    Why should countries in Europe accept so many immigrants when there is no need for them.
    They have the right to restrict immigration and
    grant of citizenship.
    Read this article in NYRB which points out how illiberal even a so called liberal
    muslim scholar is.

    ‘Tariq, by contrast, notoriously argued in a 2003 television debate with Nicolas Sarkozy that the penalty of stoning should merely be subject to a “moratorium” while scholars debated the issue.’

    This rift is more on the values- values that are dear to most europeans and which are unacceptable to islamic fundamentalism.
    Hindus and Sikhs are minorities in Europe.
    But is there a Hinduphobia.If not why.


    1. it is not true that europe is not in need of immigrants. all the european countries, be it france, germany, uk, spain, imported the immigrants from africa, asia due to acute shortage of workers which was needed for capitalist development. that demand still remains, except that there is competition from east european workers. islamophobia is europe is huge and increasing. the banning of minarets or hijabs fan this rightwing generated hysteria and institutionalizes it.


  2. I saw an article by S. Acharya in my mail on this with a caption, “Swiss minaret ban causes global uproar” about 2 days ago. They call these mosques
    as “bayonets of Islam”. There is protest rally being planned in UK also on 13 December 2009 against building mosques. They seem to consider these as instruments of ‘Wahhabism’ of ‘Sanafism’
    as you may call, dens of terrorism.

    “There can be no smoke without fire”, is an old proverb. I had never thought in divisive lines in my life, for cast, creed, religion, race, language or any other reason to create a division with an intention of “Hate”. Of course we need some kind of an identity tag for every one to recognise and for sake of description. But never thought it to be used for using it as a “Hate Insrument” until 9/11 and 26/11. This led me to study Kashmir and Israel/Palestine problems.

    The problem with current systems of religions is that they have become tagged with politics and drifting away gradually from the basic purpose of religion as such. The purpose of religion should be first to promote love and peaceful coexistence. Secondly it should teach spiritual education for what the Vedics in India call for higher spiritual experiences. They suggest that, that is the ultimate aim of ‘Human birth” and this way they distinguish the “Humans” from other creatures, who lack the faculty of discrimination and reason.

    They atribute it to ‘Intelligence”, but other animals too have some degree of intelligence, may be low.
    The Vedic teachings are Unique in this respect and the Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra are unique, which teaches you through its “Eight Fold Path” of “Sadhana”, attainment of higher knowledge. I have not yet come across such a masterpiece thesis on the attainment of “The Highest Knowledge”.

    I have done some study on the “Theism” or “Atheism” and “Religion”, “Spirituality”, and “Science”. It is a great subject of vast depth and if studied in right earnest, can lead to immense benefit to the ‘Humanity’ but, I am afraid,
    at the cost of of these contractors and religious businessmen, we call them as – ‘Maulavees’, ‘Pandits’, Paadarees’ and etc.

    Put it in words of Lord Bacon, “A little Philosophy inclineth men’s minds to atheism; but depth in Philosophy bringeth men’s minds to religion”. This will put them (religious goons) out of their fiscal worldly ‘punitive’ and lucrative business.

    The politicians will loose their one easy prop for votes, legitimisation, mass control through institutional approach than an individual approach – far more difficult job. The current proliferation of ‘Islam’ through building ‘Mosques’ is also said to be directly linked with the oil money from ‘Saudi Arabia’ mostly.

    It is a complex and crooked world. They talk one thing but do something else. Unless we achieve a harmony of “Thoughts,Words, and Deeds”, there can never be “PEACE and LOVE” on the planet.

    These developments should invite the ‘wisemen’ all over the globe to sit back and ponder over the entire issue at global level like “Environmental Pollution” sans politics.

    Peace Be Upon Him and All,

    Dr. O. P. Sudrania


  3. This is certainly worrisome the way inter-religious conflict is spreading over the world. I just would like to know – is the ban against building minarets or against building mosques?

    The reason I am asking this question is that while minarets were originally built to get the sound of azan reach far and wide in pre-microphone and loudspeaker days, in today’s times minarets are only decorative architectural features, since azan can be spread to a great distance much more powerfully with loudspeakers. Hence, a ban on minarets doesn’t really make sense. I also don’t know if they actually give azan in those countries – I am told a lot of mosques in the US don’t really give the azan, eventhough there is no law prohibiting this. If it’s also true for Switzerland, then this ban doesn’t make sense at all.

    If the ban is really against building mosques then it is certainly against the freedom of religious practice. My stand is clear on this – practice of all religions and also the non-practice of any religion should be an individual’s right and the State should not interfere with that. I also feel there is a need to look at this in its context – all the Shariah-ruled countries prohibit the building of any religious building unless it’s a mosque and practice of any religion unless it is Islam – in fact Saudi Arabia enforces its Islamic laws on non-Muslim visitors equally brutally – it’s no secret. Personally, I am not in favour of or against any religion, but just trying to say that all communities involved are responsible for the inter-religious conflict going on in this world. I am against all such anti-people practices, no matter which country or religion it comes from. I am sorry if I am offending the people here by expressing my opinion.


    1. Hi,

      I am from Switzerland and I totally agree with you. The prohibition makes no sense – it’s just a sign….I guess.

      p.s.: I voted against the ban…..


  4. rvi,
    Thanks for explaining that the ban is not for the mosques, but only for the minarets. As I said, this kind of ban doesn’t make any sense. And I do feel this post should have been more balanced by showing that this is in fact the norm in the Shariah-ruled countries – there one can’t even think of building a non-Muslim religious house of worship of any religion and practise any religion other than Islam – and worse for the Muslim who decides to leave Islam – s/he would be killed by stoning or beheading. As I said, it takes all religions to build communal hatred or communal harmony in the world and Islam has contributed its share enough – as also have almost all other religions of the world.

    In principle, banning a piece of religious architecture is really not in order from any state and for any religion. But you are right that it shows Islamophobia and is essentially a reaction aginst the hatred perpetrated by the extremist sections of the Muslim community.

    Your question about why there is no Hinduphobia in Europe and North America is also significant and I wish the Hindutva brigade will ponder over this. This is because Hinduism in its essence – I’m NOT talking about the Hindutva brigade’s version of Hindu nationalism – considers all religious ideologies in the world as equally valid, no religion being superior to the other. And if you think about it, that is really the vision that leads to communal harmony. The moment one thinks that one’s own religion as the only true religion or the superiormost religion, tensions are bound to arise. Unfortunately, this essential spirit of Hinduism is forgotten by the Hindutva brigade who have begun to perpetuate a “Wahhabi-Salafi” version of Hinduism. I do hope the Hindu community will remember this difference between traditional Hinduism and the idea of Hindutva so that there will never be a Hinduphobia in foreign countries.


    1. Although this present ban in Switzerland is on Minarets, but it actually is a reflection of deep sense of long ongoing conflict with the Muslim community, described by the Swiss Justice Minister as “proxy war” between the two comunities. Then a main Mosque in Geneva was vandalised on last thursday.

      It is surprising because Swiss are a very tolerant society. Muslims are only a small minority – about 400,000 of the total 7.5 million population. Majority of them are not even mosque goers, being descendents from Balkan Muslim race.
      Further there are only 4 such Mosques in Switzerland with Minarets. With all these facts in view, it indeed points to some other deep seated causes brewing for sometime. They were trying to tighten their noose on muslims initially by puting ban on ‘Halal’ meat. But it was felt a little difficult for various reasons.

      This fas caused a spurt of wave of Anti-Muslim cry all over the Europe due to multitudes of violent activities undertaken by hardline ‘Islamic’ radicals in various
      countries in Europe and North America. This is a typical example of ‘one fish spoiling the whole pond’. Whereas the Swiss ban may be deplorable as per the values practiced by them, but they seem to be advancing their own reasons.

      Dr. O. P. Sudrania


  5. @Daisy, The post is a short excerpt from a longer conversation about the design aesthetics of the Swiss poster campaign.

    The term “swiss minaret” yields “2695 related articles” on google at this hour, other permutations may result in more (if volume is the indicator of fairness). A quick read through the first 10 articles in any such search may yield a desired balance.


  6. Naeem,
    Thanks for this information, but you should have explained it in your post that it’s an excerpt. One is not supposed to go through a Google search to understand what the author of a blog post is trying to say in the post – it should be made clear in the post itself, even if succinctly, showing different angles to the point under discussion.

    I did try the Google search suggested by you – the first few links do talk about the violation of religious freedom in switzerland – exactly what you have suggested in this post. But I made a very different point above and don’t want to repeat it.


  7. OP Sudrania
    You are absolutly right that this is essentially a reaction towards a deep seated fear caused by the Islamic extremism. It is worth pondering over why this tolerant Swiss society is turning intolerant now – what has forced them to turn intolerant. This is not the disease, but rather the symptom.

    I have said above, my stand is very clear on this – I condemn the ban on any religious architecture, no matter of what religion. Hence, I would condemn the ban on building of all religious shrines except the mosques in the Shariah-ruled countries and I condemn the ban on minarets in Switzerland. Similarly I would condemn the ban on practice of religions other than Islam in Shariah-ruled countries and I would condemn the ban on practice of Islam in any country of the world.

    But if the writer of this post supports a poster-campaign in opposition to the Swiss minarets ban but refuses to even acknowledge that not only the ban on practice of religions other than Islam is brutally enforced in Shariah-ruled countries, but there are gross violations of human-rights going on in those countries in the form of inhuman punishments given for “crimes” such as talking to people of opposite sex in public and to women being raped who are blamed as the cause of rape and are whipped to 200 lashes for the “crime” of being raped, then I must say that this writer’s secular credentials are highly suspicious. His stand is nothing but similar to that of the orthodox Ulemas from all over the world who advocate 200 lashings of raped women but oppose the ban on minarets. I want to emphasise here that this minarets ban is nothing as compared to those kinds of human rights violations and I am yet to hear a voice of condemnation of those violations from the secular people like the author of this post.

    It is precisely this kind of selective “secular” opposition to religious violations that makes the generally tolerant public intolerant. In India, Hindutva forces wouldn’t have gained popular support so much in recent times if some people hadn’t gone for this kind of selective support or opposition to religious violations. It’s high time we begin to understand that if a religious ban is wrong, it is wrong for all religions. If a human rights violation is wrong, it is wrong in every country of the world. If we are going to oppose Switzerland and turn a blind eye to the Shariah-ruled countries, we are only adding to the problem, not trying to achieve a solution.


  8. @Daisy, At the top of the post, it clearly stated “The post is a cull from a conversation”. A cull is an excerpt.


  9. This is the kind of slippery slope fallacy (see below) that the popular imagination, a
    communal imagination, can easily be led to espouse. The minaret, a feature
    of architectural design in the main, in mosques in the West, does not
    necessarily entail muezzins’ high decibel or even public summons of votaries
    to prayer. My experience with mosques in the US, at least, is that the
    people who organize their activities are mindful of frontal intrusion into
    the ordinary activities of their neighbors through such display as the
    broadcast of the muezzin’s call to pray. The Muslims in Switzerland are
    mainly those of a Turkic or former Yugoslav origin and have experience
    accommodating the sensitivities of the political geography that they
    inhabit. Anecdotally Turkish and Yugoslav variants of the religion are
    unrecognizable to practitioners of the more austere variants of the faith
    originating in Saudi Arabia having fanned out to S. Asia. Thus the possible
    connections in the thought processes of the Swiss mind outlined below are
    of a piece with those signals of alarm sent by Yugoslavia at the
    declaration of independence by Bosnia Herzegovina. Here, the minarets are a
    marker of Muslim identity. And it is the assertion of this identity, however
    veiled and mild in accounting for local customs, that seems to be verboten
    to the Swiss popular imagination. A mosque is a place of gathering. The
    minaret is one of its identifying characters. The assembly of these
    co-religionists in their midst, it seems to me, is the real cause of concern
    here for the Swiss who voted for this ban. Assembly is political, even if
    religiously motivated. The minaret, an expression of architectural speech,
    has been muted for this reason.

    On Dec 2, 2009, at 3:07 AM, Sayan Bhattacharyya wrote:

    On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 8:52 PM, Naeem Mohaiemen

    The “STOP MINARET” poster on S-Bahn that I photographed on a break
    from installing work at Zurich Shedhalle has become a reality.

    Yesterday 57.5 % of the Swiss voted to ban mosque minarets.

    The following “Reader’s Comment” was posted in the NY Times by an
    expatriate Swiss:

    “I don’t live in Switzerland anymore, but I’m proud that my country’s
    tolerant spirit lives on, and is as ever tempered by just plain common
    sense. I think many people voted against islamic intolerance. Many
    others, without hatred or prejudice, probably thought “…next they’ll
    want to wake us up with loudspeakers blaring prayers at 5 in the
    morning!” Anybody who’s been to the Middle East can attest that the
    call of the muezzin can be annoying -five times a day, past a certain
    number of decibels, the local color and poetry wear out pretty quick.
    Imagine hearing that in the middle of your leafy suburb or quaint New
    England town… This might sound farfetched, but allowing everything
    and anything in the name of sacrosanct tolerance without stopping to
    think for a minute leads to these kinds of abuses.”



  10. @Daisy wrote: “if the writer of this post…refuses to even acknowledge….”

    How did you conclude that there was a “refusal”– by the absence of a symmetry discussion in a post about design aesthetics?


  11. I deeply sympathize with the 43.5% of the Swiss Population that has lost its opportunity to improve the skyline and the architectural quality of Swiss cities in general by the addition of a few minarets.
    A slender majority amounting to no more than 6% greater than those who said yes to Minarets have ensured that Swiss cities stay as architecturally monotonous as ever.

    Maybe this was done to protect the interests of the Bombay Film Industry, who use Switzerland because it takes less time to get to Zurich and Basel from Bombay airport than it does to get to Film city. They want the Swiss to wallow in provincial Swissness just to have authenticity on the cheap.

    From the point of view of the nefarious Mumbai Movie Mogul, it is not difficult to imagine the consequences of the terrible confusion that would ensue if the ‘public’ were ever led to believe that the Swiss idylls where stars cavort were no less minaretted than Bandra or Bhendi Bazar. I think we should investigate as to whether or not the Swiss vote on minarets was influenced by Bombay
    Film Production houses in collusion with RAW to ensure that Switzerland remains a backward, anti-cosmopolitan, provincial, un-minaret worthy place.

    Once again, my sympathies to those Swiss who wanted to wake up and see a stately, elegant minaret from their window, and have now been
    denied the chance of being normal citizens of the world. I suppose this is what happens when the country you live in gets known as the black hole of Saudi slush money. Because, just as in Saudi Arabia, one can see minarets, but no steeples, in Switzerland, one can see steeples, but no minarets. Are we seeing Architectural Mirror Worlds?



  12. Naeem,
    About your abstinence from commenting on the Shariah-ruled countries – perhaps you know that silence is consent.

    If you can be vocal about Switzerland, why not about those countries, where violation of human rights are rampant and institutionalised in the law? It shows your conceptual complicity in that kind of regime, if you don’t vocally express your dissent.

    You have come back twice on this page after I wrote that and you are still silent about it. The audience does get the message that you are an intellectual accomplice with the institutionalised oppression of human rights in Shariah-ruled countries.

    Please note that I too have opposed the ban on minarets, but my concern goes far beyond that.


  13. @ Daisy

    Why must any articulation of criticism/dissent necessarily be accompanied/justified by a simultaneous nod to human-rights violations in ‘sharia-ruled countries?’. Why must Naeem ‘earn’ the right to write about minarets in Switzerland by first saying ‘oh its terrible what they do to women in saudi arabia’, and how do you then make the conceptual leap, through his refusal to enter this framework of discourse you have set up, to him actually being complicit with violations in saudi-arabia?

    I am unable to understand the logic of argumentation you are employing, because then one can say nothing about anything unless prefaced by a quick laundry list of all oppression across the world. You remind me of a certain kind of left intellectual in JNU who when talking about why the bathrooms didn’t work in the SSS building, first began from U.S Imperialism in Afghanistan.

    Or actually I suspect there is something much darker going on, because you are forcing Naeem to take on the mantle of the ‘secular’ Muslim who must speak on behalf of ‘his’ world, apologise for its excesses, after which he may speak of injustices against him. I find this framework of discussion deeply problematic.


  14. @ daisy again,

    perhaps you know that silence is consent.

    No, actually I didn’t know, because silence is simply the absence of speech. The refusal to speak can be several things – a pause as one collects one’s thoughts, radical dissent by refusing to acknowledge through speech, silence arising from the inability to speak, silence as a way of shifting the terms of discussion by ceasing to speak, a form of generosity by way of keeping quiet so others can speak, not having anything constructive to say so choosing not to speak, a way of reducing the general levels of noise in the world by not repeating what has been said before – silence may be any or all of these, and many other things besides. Its a lack of imagination that would reduce the vast expanse of the continent of silence to the small principality of consent.


  15. Arati,
    I think Naeem is quite capable of speaking for himself – you don’t have to speak for him. I want to hear from him why he has avoided replying to this remark, not from you.

    Yes, silence is consent very often and if he keeps on returning here and avoids replying to this query then it is a silent consent, not pausing to collect his thoughts etc. One collects one’s thoughts before coming back to write on a public space. And this has nothing to do with JNU bathrooms analogy.

    Nor did I write that with an intention to extract a “Muslim apology” from him, for the simple reason that I don’t really think he is a practising Muslim – just because one is born in a community, it doesn’t mean s/he should be labelled with the categories of that community – these categories exist in your mind, not in mine.

    I made a very simple statement that his suggestion in this post should be counter-balanced with an opposition to similar violation of rights in West Asia, where in the name of Islam these things are being done and the issue is the popular representation of Islam here. And if his concerns for human rights are genuine and if he has the strength to speak, I don’t see why he shouldn’t speak out his mind, instead of either remaining silent about it, or hiding behind your apron-tails. Your defence of him only increases the audience’s suspicion of his genuineness.


  16. daisy, I am not defending Naeem. I am simply calling you out on a comment you have made. Yes kafila is a public forum and therefore in a public debate/discussion we are all entitled to express our opinions on eachother’s views. Construing this as a defense of Naeem is silly.

    I am asking you why you think a post like this needs to be counter-balanced, as if its legitimacy hinged on this? You still have not answered that question. Why is his concern for human rights not genuine if he chooses not to speak about West Asia at this very moment, in this discussion, in response to a challenge from you? This is an honest epistemological query.

    And regarding people’s identities as believers and my assigning categories to them not you…Dont try and go back on some of the things you have just said three comments ago. The troubling thing about the net is everything you say is publicly archived. You have accused Naeem of conceptual complicity in the saudi regime, if that is not assigning an idenitity to him, I dont know what is.


  17. Aarti,
    Yes, if he doesn’t say what he thinks of the human rights violations in West Asia, I’ll still say he is a silent accomplice in their opressive regime – because that’s what he’ll prove himself to be. I made that comment about labelling identity in response to your comment about Muslim apology – I just wanted to emphasise that I don’t really see him as a “Muslim” when I’m asking him this question – I would have asked him this question no matter in which community he had been born. I am not going back on any of this as you think.

    In fact, I happen to know a number of devout, religious Muslims who keep on denouncing the opressions in West Asia – they are the ones who introduced me to this fact and got me interested in knowing more about this issue.

    And they are not even pretentious about being vanguards of human rights, democracy etc.

    It’s absolutely normal for them to denounce something that is so obviously a gross violation of human rights. They have the honesty and the courage to do this. I find that approach very democratic and very just. I really appreciate their stand.

    So why is it that Naeem has problems expressing his opinion about this issue? What’s the big hang up about it?

    About the link between the two – yes, they are linked especially if one is talking through a blog like this that claims to speak for social justice, human rights, democracy and so on. Why is it that a ban on decorative architecture matters more to him than gross human rights violations when one is talking about religious encroachments? This is a seious issue to think about. And equally more serious issue is, why is it that you are constantly justifying his silence?

    In a truly democratic space, he would have simply come out and expressed his opinion.

    I have just asked him a very basic question and he has evaded that basic question. So, why do you want me to justify my question? Is it a crime to ask a question? In any case, I have explained above why I asked it.

    What’s the big deal about expressing opinion about this issue anyway?

    Is it some kind of a crime to express opinion on this issue on a democratic blog like this?


  18. @Daisy
    I have now “replied” as you requested. So, what did my “reply” prove, in the end? In proved that I am also vocal on human rights abuses in a Muslim-majority country, Bangladesh. Did that actually accomplish anything for this debate? Was it a useful provocation?

    Perhaps, you will respond by bringing out a new list. E.g., Well, why don’t you say anything about Saudi Arabia? (I am not sure where you mean by West Asia, but I will be happy to condemn it, once you produce that list) I will then, by rote, produce the URL for my op-ed “Slaves in Saudi: Muslim World’s Shame”. You will read that, and not be satisfied, and you will say, what about Darfur? Then I’ll send you a link to Stanley Crouch’s op-ed where he quotes from my writing on this issue. You will proceed through your laundry list of places where non-Muslims have minimal rights, and I will produce my list of all the places where I have written out against reactionary, right-wing politics in the Muslim world.

    But what will this back and forth actually prove?

    The fundamental point is elsewhere:
    1. In order to talk about a case of anti-Muslim (or more importantly anti-migrant) racism in one country, it should not be necessary to begin (or end) with a laundry list of all the places where Muslims are practicing anti-non-Muslim racism.

    2. To make that linkage is also, inadvertently to argue that because there is racism in (for example) Saudi, that makes racism in Switzerland ok. But this will only lead to a “race to the bottom”. We should then all look at Burma’s horrific HR record and say no Asian democracy should have to be any better than Burma. The point is to urge countries and people to be what we all hope the global standard for rights can be, rather than pointing to Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) and say “look how bad they are, we are at least better than them”

    3. To look at the absence of #1 and immediately jump to the conclusion that the author of the post “stands for” or “believes in” X is an unfair debating tactic. You have the right to say whatever you believe, but you don’t have the right to put words in other people’s mouth. You have to let us reply when we choose to. Silence does not give you the right to invent falsehoods.


  19. It is interesting to see a good flow of adrenaline on this post. Let us first accept that this post was primarily about the ban on minarets on mosques in Switzerland on 29th November 2009. I find that the bloggers seem to be jostling-bustling with each other and getting diverted from the main theme. I liked the Bollywood intermission theory quite entertaining. Everybody is free for their right of expression, but it makes things easier if we be meaningful and to the point.

    As I said, this ban in Switzerland reflects the doop rooted angst in the entire European society. As you know, the Europe is very sensitive as well as liberal besides it being an open society.

    I have to admit that an incidence of this kind when happens, does send you reeling to its root cause too. Otherwise you can not explain its reason. Then again if I go to your house, you show your conservatism, but expect all liberalism and freedom in my house, that too on demand; is sure to incite the disdain. Then you can not advance the argument that you practice liberalism in your house, then why did you deprive me of that. It can not be a one way traffic. Then you take recourse to violent means and methods, is certainly going to attract criticism and hate. In that respect, Saudi or any of the 57 or so Islamic countries (OIC) can not escape the discussion. Remeber this is only a discussion with no punitive implications. This being a public forum, it is used for healthy criticism, not to promote hate or individual attacks, I believe.

    I would hate to give an impression of communalist, but in stating the truth, I may apparently appear so. There is no doubt that the Muslims ( a few radicals) have been involved in brutal and fatal killings including merciless massacres all over the world. The 9/11 in US, others like in UK (2005), Madrid (2004), Netherland and so on have caused a great anxiety. Their blatant killings going on unabatedly in India and Kashmir over past >20 yrs is anothher good precept.

    Then the daily blasts and killings in Pakistan/Afghanistan is a chilling paradigm. These are not isolated iinstances, but the dastardly act of an international fundamentalist conspiracy and designs carried out by the practioners of Islam at large overtly and covertly.

    Let me quote some Muslims themselves. “The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious comunity”. Said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.

    Another Muslim scholar. “Truthfully speaking, we don’t need so many mosques,” says Irfan al-Alawi, international director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in London. We have 1600 mosques (in Britain) and a (Muslim) population of 1.6 million. It’s become a business rather than a worship place.

    In fact the experts on Middle East studies fear that it is a part of their slow world Islamisation process.
    That is where the worries are. Unless you discuss all these details, this trivial step in a tolerant world
    society can not be understood fully. It is quite pertinent, as I feel. Unless you openly discuss these
    phenomena, you will fail to grasp the very basic significance and leaving the root cause as such, without a long term remedy.

    With no malice to none,

    Dr. O. P. Sudrania


  20. Naeem,
    Don’t begin presuming what I’ll say because you don’t know me – I just finished saying this on another page of this blog and have to say this here again, because this is a problem with people writing on this blog that they can see the world only through their own self-created categories. They don’t realise that this world is much more vast than they think.

    Well, it’s nice to know that you write those things, but you don’t have to be so patronising about it as if you are doing a great favour to me by coming out with it. You should have said it in the very beginning so that this argument wouldn’t have ensued. Yes, it is very imporant that you show that you are not concerned only about decorative pieces of architecture but also about real human beings – it’s not a question of laundrying as you call it, but a question of where your sensitivities lie. And if you are concerned about this, I don’t see what was wrong in including it in here again.


  21. @Daisy
    I wasn’t trying to be patronizing, I was trying to be precise. My apologies if that’s what came across.

    The reason my past writing on human rights abuses was not included in the post was because the focus was actually a design/aesthetics discussion (centered around the poster, which I saw as a marvel of right-wing agitprop). I was approaching it as an artist, and talking to a German designer friend, the context being two people interested in design & politics. Unfortunately the discussion on this blog quickly went away from any discussion of aesthetics, and instead into a good vs bad/back & forth/lesser vs greater evil, which is a debate already happening elsewhere at great length.


  22. hahaha thank you all for that entertaining exchange.

    So what is to be done about effective right wing graphic designers? Can some of them be won over as simply guns for hire? I would think so, and cheaper than winning over Blackwater/Xe guys any day. Perhaps a public (or semi public, ivory tower) debate might be a nice anti-propaganda move.

    And, well, what is to be done about human rights abuses– which Naeem is well known to oppose- wherever they may be? Strategy would depend on location, cultural context and many other specific factors. Not that one must actually be in Saudi to oppose its air conditioned medievalism– we really do need to find tools to promote more intelligent interpretations of Islam, even of Shariah–

    So do we (humanists? secularists? Artists? Poets? Lovers? Who?) need cartoons and posters and youtube etc etc to open –or “frontally intrude” as Tabber wrote?– into those proverbial hearts & minds?

    I guess no one just reads books anymore– so, yeah I guess — how to penetrate/fecundate the minds out there, somewhere, floating in space…..


    1. I am not suggesting we poach talent from the right. The point is elsewhere. Growing up, I was used to the right-wing (in various countries) having a paucity of imagination. Blunt tools, buffoonish rhetoric. It was easy (and perhaps lazy) for us to make fun of them. “We have the best songs”, went the descriptor of the left. This is not to say you need good, punchy designs to win campaigns (not always). Right-wing forces certainly won in many places without needing that. But the Minarett-Verbot poster was something which I looked at and thought (on first arriving in Zurich): “damn, that graphic is kind of fly” (later my dismay when learning what it was for). This new design aesthetic, one among many indicators of maybe an end to the right’s paucity of visual imagination, is what I was trying to get into with Sandy. There have been many other such examples actually, even long before Zurich, this case was to make a larger point. About evolution of aesthetics, in opposing camps.


  23. thanks for this intervention Naeem, and taking the conversation into interesting terrain. I remember seeing an exhibition of Bolshevik era posters at the Tate several years ago and marveling at how a certain figuration of the human figure and solid colours against a stark background had entered twentieth century design aesthetic. Also soviet era fashion in the thirties was very interesting, this whole new language of developing cloth prints drawing from geometric designs: circles, squares, triangles. And yet what we could call the “right of the left” has traditionally had a strange relationship with monumentalism. Mad huge sculptures, that dwarf and reduce the human figure to a little inconsequential speck…


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