Pravda, October 12, 2011
A group of Muslim immigrants wants to force Switzerland to abandon the current flag–a white cross on the red background. They say that it violates the rights of the representatives of non-Christian confessions. They seem to have been hurt by the recent ban on minarets construction. However, their proposal is unlikely to be welcomed by the native Swiss and will only increase the number of votes in favor of the treasury of the local far-right People’s Party.
The first suggestion to remove the cross from the Swiss flag was made not by a Muslim, but (judging by the name) an ethnic Croat and Catholic vice-president of the association of immigrants Secondos Plus Ivica Petrushich. “The cross does not fit today’s multicultural Switzerland,” he said. The organization of the Turkish, Albanian and other immigrants from Muslim countries followed with a similar initiative. Instead, they suggested using a green-yellow-red flag of Helvetic Republic that existed at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries. It has no cross on it.
It is hardly coincidental that the issue of replacing the flag was raised by the representatives of immigrant organizations. Today, over 20 percent of seven million-strong Swiss population is immigrants. Naturally, the Muslims will be more than others insistent on replacing the flag. There are nearly 400,000 of them (more than five percent of the population). The largest “ethnic Muslim” community is Albanian, followed by the Turkish one. Arabs and Bosnian Muslims also reside in Switzerland. Many of them certainly do not like the cross.
The vast majority of Swiss Muslims virtually broke off with the religion of their ancestors. No more than 50 thousand of the faithful pray five times a day. However, women in headscarves have become an integral part of the cityscape of Zurich or Geneva. Furthermore, the birthrate in religious Muslim families is much higher than among the other population. Finally, all Swiss followers of Islam are not natives, but immigrants and their descendants. Their support of changing the appearance of the flag is, to say the least, ambiguous.
Apparently, this circumstance was taken into account by the head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland Mayzar Hisham, who called the idea of changing the flag “counterproductive.” He said that they did not demand anyone to change the ancient traditions of their countries. It is hard not to agree with his words. The relations of the indigenous Swiss and immigrants have already passed a difficult strength test. The desire to change the flag will only add fuel to the fire. Two years ago the Muslim community wanted to attach minarets to the existing mosques. However, Switzerland is different from all other countries in a way that each more or less relevant issue is solved by holding a referendum. Negotiations with the government officials were not sufficient, and they had to ask the opinion of the population. This opinion was not in favor of the Muslim immigrants.
The initiator of the referendum two years ago was the ultra-right Swiss People’s Party that called to stop the “creeping Islamization”. A deputy of the Swiss Parliament Ulrich Shlyuer said that minarets were a political symbol of the implementation of Islam. Step by step, Sharia was conquering Switzerland, acting in parallel with the Swiss law. Statistics show that the degree of religiosity of the local Muslim population is exaggerated, but for the ordinary Swiss even a hint of a violation of their habitual way of living was sufficient.
The results of voting on November 29, 2009 shocked Europe. 57.5 percent of the Swiss population was in favor of a ban on construction of minarets. At the same time kosher and halal slaughter of animals was banned (because of cruelty). Islamic organizations, human rights activists, and many European politicians expressed their outrage. However, the law came into force. The EU could not influence Switzerland as it is not its member. Many of those dissatisfied with the verdict (including indigenous Europeans who had departed from the religion) were eager for revenge, and eventually decided to strike from the other side. They inquired why the flag of the Swiss Confederation had a Christian cross on it if construction of minarets was banned. Allegedly, it violated the rights of not only Muslims but also non-believers. That is why the red-green-yellow flag of the Helvetic Republic would be better.
Would the majority of the Swiss agree with this point of view? Unlike neighboring France and Germany, the Swiss society is rather conservative. While there is no case of absolute religiousness of the Swiss society, the number of believers in Switzerland is higher than in the neighboring countries. This can be partially explained by a high proportion of rural population scattered along numerous mountain valleys in 20 cantons and six half-cantons of the country. Approximately half of the indigenous Swiss are Catholics; a little fewer are Protestant Calvinists. The cross on the flag is something that unites the country, and does not divide it.
As for the flag, the current symbol was first used in Switzerland in 1339, when the union of separate cantons just started to take shape. It achieved its official status in 1848, when the last standoff on this land ended, crowned with a robust Swiss Confederation. To some extent, it is a symbol of freedom and peace, a path to which took many centuries and numerous wars. The Helvetic Republic, whose flag is offered instead of the current one, is not particularly respected by the Swiss. It was created by Napoleon who occupied the country and decided to build entities supervised by the French on its territory. For the free-spirited Swiss this flag is a symbol of oppression.
Not to mention the fact that the combination of green, red and yellow colors is characteristic mainly of African countries. In Europe, only Lithuania has a similar flag. Do the immigrants have a right to teach the Swiss tolerance? For over 160 years there has been no bloodshed on this territory. This is all the more surprising considering that the country is multinational. Nearly three-quarters of the indigenous Swiss speak German, one-fifth speaks French, five or six percent speak Italian, and a little less than one percent–the Romansh language. All these languages have the official status, but there is one dominant language group in each canton (with rare exceptions). They managed to combine small mono-national “houses” with a multinational one. The country is not threated by a collapse. Encroaching on the foundation of the state, immigrants cause a reaction from the German Swiss, French Swiss and Italian Swiss.
Ultra People’s Party is gaining popularity among all of them. Its symbol is three white sheep (the number of the top three language groups), kicking the fourth, black one. This is a clear hint to what should be done with immigrants. Four years ago, the party secured 29 percent of the Swiss votes, and it was a shock to Europe. In the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 23, the result may be even higher.
As is evident from the story with the restrictions on ritual slaughter of animals and minarets construction, the Swiss are not afraid to challenge the infamous political correctness. A ban on wearing the veil is to follow. The more you attempt to encroach on the foundation of the Swiss state, the stronger will be the response. It took Switzerland and its people too long to achieve stability and peace of mind to just give up on their values.