"Ja zum Minarettverbot."
Poster inflames Swiss battle over move to ban minarets
David Luyet, a professional winegrower, will be voting in favour of the ban on building minarets in Switzerland on 29 November. According to the polls, about a third of the electorate could approve the referendum motion put forward by the populist rightwing Democratic Union of the Centre (UDC) and the Evangelical Right in a move to “unequivocally refuse [...] Islamic influence in Switzerland”. Luyet, 42, a former racing driver and a Roman Catholic, is personally involved in the campaign. At the head of a tiny committee, this inhabitant of the Valais canton is determined to outdo even UDC propaganda. In Switzerland provocative political posters are an established tradition, so he thought nothing of using a photograph of the government, or Federal Council, for his own ends. In his photomontage, the four male members were dressed in conventional suits and ties, but the three women wore blue burkas. The caption reads: “Time to stop veiling the issue”. The poster, which caused an outcry, was due to appear in Switzerland’s 10 largest cities. On 6 November the Federal Chancellery in Bern banned it on the ground that a picture of the seven councillors could not be put to political uses. Luyet produced a new version, keeping the three veiled women, but with a supposedly Islamic quote: “A nation that entrusts its affairs to a woman will never achieve success.” It makes no difference to Luyet that there are only four minarets in the whole country, out of 200 Muslim places of worship and prayer. He believes prevention is better than cure. “It starts with applications to build minarets, then to broadcast the call to prayer, and ultimately to impose Islamic principles on our country,” he says, adding that meanwhile “churches are empty”. Last month another poster produced by a UDC offshoot caused a stir. It showed the Swiss flag covered in minarets and a veiled woman with a threatening look. Some cities, including Basle, Lausanne, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, banned it, saying it could encourage discrimination and hatred. In contrast, Zurich and Geneva thought the priority was to preserve freedom of speech. The opponents of the initiative – who include the Federal Council and almost all political and business leaders – are edgy. On 10 November the justice minister, Eveline WidmerSchlumpf, said that banning minarets was contrary to the principles of religious freedom and non-discrimination enshrined in the Swiss constitution. She said that there was no problem integrating Switzerland’s 400,000 Muslims. But a few days earlier she had said that she was personally against women wearing the burka.