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Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:46 pm
Ban the minaret!

Ban this, ban that! No, we don't mean business! We the Swiss would never ban that! No, ban the poor, ban the different! Ban and stigmatize the things the poor and the different do, the shapes they wear and build! Don't ban the rich! Court the rich! Attract them by enabling capital, incentivising business, indemnifying the banks, making their risk public and their profit private! But minarets, veils, burkas -- ban, ban, ban! Ban in the name of freedom! Ban in the name of feminism! Ban in the name of national identity! Ban in the name of fear!



On Sunday, the Swiss voted in a referendum to ban the construction of new minarets. Existing minarets can stay, but new ones cannot be built. The measure will now pass into Swiss law. A particular building shape is now forbidden. A 4% minority of the Swiss population -- also, and not coincidentally, its poorest 4% -- has been told that its buildings "endanger Swiss security". Banners held up banners in front of models of minarets that declared: "That is not my Switzerland".

In late 2004, France banned the wearing of Islamic headscarves in schools. Alain Badiou wrote at the time: "France has astonished the world. After the tragedies, the farce."

"France has finally found a problem worthy of itself: the scarf draping the heads of a few girls. Decadence can be said to have been stopped in this country. The Muslim invasion, long diagnosed by Le Pen and confirmed nowadays by a slew of indubitable intellectuals, has found its interlocutor. The battle of Poitiers was kid's stuff, Charles Martel, only a hired gun. But Chirac, the Socialists, feminists and Enlightenment intellectuals suffering from Islamophobia will win the battle of the headscarf."

Badiou demolishes, in this splendidly angry, numbered text, the arguments that banning the headscarf is either a feminist or enlightenment gesture: "Either it's the father and eldest brother, and "feministly" the hijab must be torn off, or it's the girl herself standing by her belief, and "laically" it must be torn off. There is no good headscarf. Bareheaded! Everywhere! ...Everyone must go out bareheaded.



"One will never go into raptures enough over feminism's singular progression. Starting off with women's liberation, nowadays feminism avers that the "freedom" acquired is so obligatory that it requires girls (and not a single boy!) to be excluded owing to the sole fact of their dressing accoutrements."

Badiou is quite clear about what really underlies the ban.

"In truth of fact, the Scarfed Law expresses one thing and one thing alone: fear. Westerners in general, the French in particular, are but a shivering, fearful lot. What are they afraid of? Barbarians, as usual. Those from within, i.e. the "young suburbanites"; those from without, i.e. "Islamist terrorists." Why are they frightened? Because they are guilty, but claim to be innocent. They are guilty of having renounced and attempted to annihilate -- ever since the 1980s -- every kind of emancipatory politics, every revolutionary form of Reason, and every true assertion of something else. Guilty of clutching at their lousy privileges. Guilty of being but old children playing with their manifold purchases. Yes, indeed, "in a long childhood, they have been made to age." They are thus afraid of everything a little less aged. A stubborn young lady, for instance."



This is confirmed in European coverage of the Swiss minaret ban: "The Belgian newspaper Le Soir noted that some people found minarets "scary," and added, "There is a strong chance that if there was a vote in Belgium, a majority of citizens would be against it too."

The only thing that would prevent the Germans enacting similar bans would be the all-too-resonant similarity to the persecution of a religion in their 20th century history. And the EU's human rights stance. Here's the EU's human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, righteously hammering Sarkozy as well as the Swiss (Sarkozy is currently leading a debate on whether the burka should be banned in France; his own stated position is that the burka "is not welcome"):

"In a statement on the Swiss vote, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, warned against narrowly defining national identity and pinpointed France's debate as a potential "trap of promoting one single identity, which defines who is included and, by extension, who is excluded."



Badiou points out that Islam is, in France, the religion of the poor. This is its real crime; to be associated with the economic underclass. Meanwhile, symbols of France's real mass religion -- business -- go unchecked in French schools:

"Isn't business the real mass religion? Compared to which Muslims look like an ascetic minority? Isn't the conspicuous symbol of this degrading religion what we can read on pants, sneakers and t-shirts: Nike, Chevignon, Lacoste... Isn't it cheaper yet to be a fashion victim at school than God's faithful servant? If I were to aim at hitting a bull's eye here -- aiming big -- I'd say everyone knows what's needed: a law against brand names. Get to work, Chirac. Let's ban the conspicuous symbols of Capital, with no compromises."

In a great lecture reprinted in the New York Review of Books, Tony Judt asks What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy? "We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present, much less offer alternatives to it," Judt says. "Why is it so beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?"

The short answer: we are afraid of difference, and reluctant even to try to imagine it. As Badiou puts it in his Hard Talk interview: "We have no great and clear idea of another world."

110CommentReplyFlag

sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)

That Badiou is wonderfully scathing. I'm tempted to snog him.

I was in Geneva a couple of weeks ago and was astounded by the poster produced by the No Minaret campaign.

Photobucket

Apparently the poster was banned in other Swiss towns and cities, but not Geneva. There seemed a fair amount in local papers about some proposed cross-border railway line from Annemasse the Genevois bigots feared flooding their town with "la racaille"/riff-raff.

Pulling back from the minaret poster, another jolly piece of Swiss enlightenment put it all in perspective...

Photobucket


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:40 pm (UTC)

Ha! I like how the kebab and the minaret are almost the same shape! I wonder how the Swiss would have voted if they'd only be allowed to ban one if the other was also automatically banned? Or if they were no longer allowed to use oil from Islamic countries, or bank Islamic money, or eke out their aging, declining population with Islamic immigrant labour?

Ban, ban, ban! The Swiss way! To keep Switzerland truly full of Swiss shapes! Holes in cheese! Cuckoos in the clock, but not in the nest! Multiple blades in a penknife, as long as they aren't minaret-shaped!


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Sourpuss - (Anonymous) Expand


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)

I have read your blog about stella things, and i was completely shocked from this matter, but for many years untill now as i gazed towards the sky during at night, i have noticed a huge star beyond us, I would like to ask is that Eris? because the size has dramtically increased over the last couple of years?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)

I hear that the beings who are on the Nibiru mother ship which houses smaller ships inside are coming to help the inhabitants of Earth to raise their polarity levels up so the plane would shift up to 4D. Have you heard about this? Please be honest. Theres a lot of information on YouTube that speaks about this. I always knew that another advanced lifeform was here and is working to get us ready for the shift. I would like for one of them to reveal theirselves on TV on CNN. Wouldn’t you?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)

If we can sparkle, they may land tonight, Anon! Pull on your glitter platforms, your spangle sequins, and your burka!

No, not your burka!


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
Underdogs-this and victims-that

One article about Dubai, and in the next Momus tells us Islam is strictly for the "poor and different". Now that is rapidly skewering sympathies!

I say that aetheism be introduced as a requirement for immigration into the EU. I say 100% secular schools by 2015. Who are traditionally the first to complain about s*x education in schools? Catholic and Muslim groups. I'm on the Guardian's aetheist bus: I say ban them - very gently and with love.

I say "Tell me one POSITIVE aspect of introducing difference-crushing, homophobic Abrahamic faiths into the EU? Ethics increasingly out of date and unfit for the modern world?" We'd only started deserting the Christian church, turning its buildings into pubs and luxury flats – why go BACKWARDS?

No-one seems able to give me an independently positive reason. It’s all underdogs-this and victims-that. Yes – like Pepsi is a victim of Coke! Like black is a victim of white - or is it vice versa - while they are both strangling all the colour of the world!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Underdogs-this and victims-that

You'd have to twist yourself into some very painful knots to tell us that Dubai and an immigrant mosque in Geneva are "essentially the same thing". Your knot would get even tighter were you to justify why reading The Guardian has made you so proudly intolerant.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
street fashion

there was a pic in the dutch newspaper yesterday of two pro-minaret supporters, wearing a giant white minaret on their heads. it looks amazing. if i can find pic I will post it later. wonder when a fashion designer will catch up on this.


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eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)


This is one of those (rare) moments when I can feel good about America - we do a lot of horrible, stupid things, but we would never do that.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)

No, yours is a state more or less founded on the idea of the freedom to mumble to whatever shape of deity you choose to imagine in whatever shape of building you care to erect.


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krskrft
krskrft
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)

What I find so absurd about the minaret ban is that there's nothing even remotely like an argument for it, and yet it still happened. Say what you want about the (lack of) gay rights in America, but at least there's a twisted, bigoted logic behind it (granting rights to gays means we approve of the gays which means we approve of gay sex which means we approve of our children becoming gays and having gay sex which means we approve of the human race dying out due to everyone being gay and only having gay sex ... or whatever). The minaret thing is just absurd on its face, a complete non sequitur. "There are fundamentalist Muslims in the world, so let's fucking ban minarets!"


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)

It’s simple, really. Both the burka and the minaret bans are attempts at getting rid of Muslims through the sheer power of legislation. If we ban Muslim customs, then we kick the Muslims out of our countries. Or at least force them to give up their infidel ways.

Apparently they don’t realize that this is EXACTLY the same rationale behind Sharia states. Yay Nietzsche, here are we becoming the monsters.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Kouchner's comments

Despite the burka debacle, Kouchner is "scandalised" by the ban:

http://www.europe1.fr/Info/Actualite-Internationale/Europe/Suisse-Kouchner-scandalise-par-le-non-aux-minarets/(gid)/257285

My favourite quote from his statement is this: "C'est une expression d'intolérance et je déteste l'intolérance." It clearly references Tom Lehrer in National Brotherhood Week: "I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that."

Alas, only one of them gets the joke.

-Orestes


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)

(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
Religion and business

But I think the Swiss made a great step forward! Exactly, yes, ban everything. Now they should ban the Jews, the Christs as well as their capitalist life demeaning systems and buildings. Burn them to hell. I don't like any of those including the Muslim's debased and authoritative perception of how we should live our lives. And yes, I also don't believe the Swiss will have the balls to free themselves from their banks. Those hypocrites. They'd rather kick in the balls of their minority cultures and feel smug about it. They've achieved and solved nothing. They are as bland, clueless and cold as their capitalist buildings.


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)

How can you be afraid of this?:


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
Minarets

I think about every hundred and eighteen notes equals one US dollar.




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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)

I visited this one when I was a kid.




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st_ranger
st_ranger
Palimpsests of a Secret Whistler
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)

I doubt one sees many church steeples in Riyadh but we haven't seen any jeremiads about the horrible banning Saudis lately. It's always the noble Muslims and those awful Westerners. It all seems a little easy and neat. I can see why Muslims who are already living there might be upset, but really... it's Switzerland. It's not Muslimland. Why does Japan get to retain it's unique distinctiveness but all western cultures must submit to being mixed with all other cultures until they're unrecognizable? Japan will always remain Japan, but Switzerland, in 100 years, will be a postmodern Mixland? America and the other lands in the "New World" I can see as the perfect case for being pomo Mixlands-- it's almost what we're here for. But Switzerland? How can you promote the basic Japan-ness of the Japanese on the one hand and then try to destroy the basic Swissness of the Swiss on the other? (Not that I actualy believe some fucking minarets are going to do that, but hey if they wanna get all squeamish, fine. Japan would have kicked out those Muslims decades ago!)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)

There's a perfectly good reason to critique a culture close to one's own (the Swiss) but not a culture far from one's own (the Saudis). Can you guess what it is? (Hint: it has something to do with the right to self- determination, and the political difference between self-criticism and criticism of someone else's culture, which is also a matter of basic politeness.)


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
The evils of democracy.



Popular democracy+ ignorance of general populace+ relatively low levels of immigration ('i may have -seen- a muslim and heard sensational press stories but i don't have a muslim neighbour') = minaret ban

the evils of democracy. Don't forget how Hitler came to power. There's something to be said yet for educated elites.


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shadowshark
shadowshark
ShadowShark
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)

When I was in Switzerland last year, I sought out Sprüngli, producers of some of the finest chocolate in the world. I was surprised to learn that they had just opened a 'base' in Dubai. That is, their relations with the middle east were so profitable, they decided to establish a center there so that their chocolates, which are manufactured only in Switzerland, could be flown in daily and distributed with the greatest Swiss efficiency.

Also, thanks to the shout out to 'young suburbanites.' We're people, too, though mostly that gets cast by the wayside.

Great article.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
a woman's place...

i remember seeing an interesting documentary about a muslim woman advocating for the removal of sexist strictures in her local mosque; stuff like partition walls, not allowing the women in the mosque at certain times, making them sit in the nose-bleed section, etc.

and i'll never forget the looks on the men's faces as they listened to her and her comrades at the meetings. you could see, just under the surface, glimmers of shame. but their fearfulness and aggression was very apparent in their demeanors; the absolute bitter fear of their having such a voice and presence in the community.

the impotence on their faces and in their voices was unforgettable. like they knew what the women were saying was deeply right and fair, but they just couldn't bring themselves to agree and let down their macho facade.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 1st, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Re: a woman's place...

I know what you mean -- it's not necessarily wrong. What sets off alarm bells for me is that "we don't like the way they treat their women" continues to be the acceptable face of ethnocentricity. As if someone else's women are held hostage by a culture they don't really belong to, didn't really help create, and don't reinforce when they, for instance, bring up male children.

This then plays into a "feminist-crusader-liberator" fantasy which was, unfortunately, not absent in the invasion of, say, Afghanistan. I remember the documentaries on the BBC World Service about how Afghan women were now, for the first time, able to drive a car. Strangely enough, the inability of Saudi women to drive cars was never posited as a reason it might be a good idea to invade Saudi Arabia, though.


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