We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Minarets ‘r’ not us

The result is in: the Swiss public has voted in favour of a proposition prohibiting the construction of any new minarets in their country. Note: this is not a ban on Islam or even the construction of mosques, just minarets.

Aside from all the obvious reprecussions (which are not hard to predict), it does occur to me that this raises an interesting and very thorny questions for libertarians because this is not a straightforward case of state repression. In fact, it appears that both the Swiss government and parliament were firmly opposed to the proposition which has been put to the public by referendum following a petition which was endorsed by a sufficient number of Swiss citizens. The Swiss state urged the public to reject the proposition but, having lost, is now forced, reluctantly, to change the constitution to enact the minaret ban into Swiss law. This was ground-up not top-down.

When a government says no to freedom of religious worship, it is easy to mount our high horses and ride forth bearing gleaming swords of indignation. But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder. At least, it does for me.

187 comments to Minarets ‘r’ not us

  • This is just a fine example of democracy being hugely overrated. ‘Demakratia’ is simply a Greek way of saying ‘rule of the mob’.

  • Sorry about the typo…

  • Good job Swiss people… anything that curbs the rise of Islam in Europe is a good thing.

  • Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.

    JS Mill, On Liberty.

  • M

    I applaud the Swiss people.

  • Ben

    [comment deleted… never insult the host. banned]

  • Pa, this is a good quote, but it has no place here: this was not an action by civil society, but a political action sanctioned by the government (despite the personal opposing opinions expressed by however many figures in that same government).

  • Alice

    Just maybe, if Muslims were front & center in condemning Islamist terror attacks; if Muslims were excommunicating their co-religionists who riot over cartoons; if Muslims were fingering those plotting murders in their midst — then ordinary Swiss citizens might feel better about minarets in front of their mountains.

  • Alisa,

    I must correct you. This is not a decision ‘sanctioned’ by the Swiss government; it is a decision of the people which has been ‘forced’ upon the government who must, by Swiss law, respect it whether they like it or not.

  • Ben: the point is not having a perfect system, but a system based on certain principles, with the idea that people should follow these principles (to which they generally subscribe) even when it may be inexpedient. For example, a system which upholds freedom of speech for everyone , including people we really would rather drop dead.

  • TT:

    who must, by Swiss law, respect it whether they like it or not.

    I should have probably used the term ‘state’ instead of ‘government’, since the state both legislates and enforces the law. Also, like I said, individuals within a particular government and their particular opinions are irrelevant here. This is democracy in action, and it is very different from the societal pressure to which JS Mill seems to have been alluding in that quote.

  • RAB

    As I understand it this was the will of the people.
    The Government would have bent over backwards to allow more of them to be built.

    I also believe that Mosques are perfectly legal, but the Call to Prayer is banned. So what do you want a minaret for? They only exist for a fat bearded guy with a bad singing voice, to climb up five times a day and harrange the populace.
    It is a symbol of Supremacy, and the Swiss have rightly rejected it.

    Oh and when we all see Cathedrals with bellringers clanging out of a sunday morning in Saudi Arabia, then they may reconsider their position.
    Waddia think? Hell freezing over first?

  • The people of Switzerland have rightly recognized that Islam as a threat and the minaret as a political statement of hegemony over infidels.
    I don’t see the problem with this ruling, as Islam is enemy of all religious or not people.
    Islam don’t see others as equally endowed with the same rights as its followers. And make a tenets that infidels must be submitted, killed or droved away every time the Muslims have the power to do so.

    Libertarianism work because it let anyone to enter in a compact where people don’t harm each other and respect and protect the freedom of others. Must it can work only if it is able to detect and expel from the compact and treat them like the enemy they are the individuals that are not loyal to the compact.

    Altruistic punishers are the fundations of a libertarian society. If they punish defectors and not collaborators (in punishing the people that not collaborate in the punishing of defectors and not collaborators) they are doing the right thing. They must be supporters of liberty and difficult to trick one against the other by defectors.

  • DC

    Freedom of religion does not necessarily equate with freedom of building design. The Swiss have not said ‘no more mosques’ – they’ve said ‘no more minarets’. Ok I guess that most of those voting may not have made the same distinction but many of them have. The argument is not necessarily Islam or non-Islam it’s a belief that all faiths should accept to a certain degree the mores of the society they attempt to influence. If in this case it means that Swiss don’t wish an alien architectural style inflicted on their landscape then fair enough.

  • But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder.

    No it doesn’t. A violation of individual rights, including property rights and the right to be treated equally under law, is a violation of individual rights.

    All “democracy” is nothing more than mob rule. When it’s “top down” or “bottom up” is utterly irrelevant.

  • Richard Garner

    This was not “The Will of the People.” It was the will of some of the people, and this will remain the case until it has unanimous acceptance. Nor did “the Swiss people recognise the threat of Islam.” At best, some of the people did. Unless there was unanimous assent (and not just by the electorate), this is still only some of the people.

    Removing collectivist nonsense reveals this as what it is: Some people deciding that violence may be used with impunity to prevent others using their person and property to build minarets.

  • I am conflicted about this event. However, several people have alluded to the political meaning of minarets, and this needs to be expanded.

    In Muslim countries, it is common practice to ban the construction of buildings that are taller than the shortest minaret, particularly if the buildings in question are churches or synagogues.

    Minarets are a statement of theo-political supremacy. As such, it is not clear whether the issue is purely one of religious freedom.

    Remember that the majority of you are used to religion being divorced from the state, de facto if not de jure. This distinction is quite recent even in Britain, where kings were deposed for being of the wrong religion not four centuries ago. The distinction between religion and state has been argued for by some Muslim scholars, but they argue against the weight of traditional Muslim belief and practice. They may win out in the end, but that is by no means clear.

    Traditional Judaism, too, subordinates the state to religious law, even if it recognizes different spheres of responsibility for each. You can see how this plays out in specific public controversies in Israel today, particularly over civil marriages and the like.

  • Richard Garner: your second para is well put. However, even if all Swiss people to the last one agreed to this, it would still be wrong. What KipEsquire said.

    Also, what they do in Saudi Arabia has absolutely no bearing on what they should be doing in Switzerland – I cannot believe that I have to point this out, but there you go. Oh, and:

    Swiss don’t wish an alien architectural style inflicted on their landscape then fair enough.

    So by this logic they can also decide that Stars of David on synagogues are not to their liking either?

  • Mastiff: there is nothing “traditional” about these particular issues in Israel, just mere political opportunism on all sides.

  • Jamess

    I suspect part of your difficulty comes from placing Islam into the general category of religion. Government supression of an ideology based around a man who was willing to die for his enemies, and practiced by people who follow his way (as opposed to those times where Christians have acted hypocritically – and there obviously have been such times) is very different from supression of an ideology based on a man who was a war-monger and followed by people who believe it is a moral good to kill the innocent.

    The category “religion” is simply too broad to be helpful.

  • Pat

    The only Moslems who will object to this are the intolerant and anti democratic ones. Since the swiss are only banning minarets, not mosques, perhaps the Muslim countries ( say Iran, Saudi Arabia) could show their toloerance by permitting churches- or Hindu or Budhist or Sikh temples. If others tolerate them and they do not tolerate others then they take over the world. And anyone who thinks the majority of Swiss are wrong clearly does not respect the views of others. Persuade them via argument if you can- otherwise shut up.

  • Pat

    The only Moslems who will object to this are the intolerant and anti democratic ones. Since the swiss are only banning minarets, not mosques, perhaps the Muslim countries ( say Iran, Saudi Arabia) could show their toloerance by permitting churches- or Hindu or Budhist or Sikh temples. If others tolerate them and they do not tolerate others then they take over the world. And anyone who thinks the majority of Swiss are wrong clearly does not respect the views of others. Persuade them via argument if you can- otherwise shut up.

  • What Andrew Ian Dodge and many others after him say. There are plenty of other countries where they can go and build minarets if they want.

  • it does occur to me that this raises an interesting and very thorny questions for libertarians

    Not for me. Banning something which is causing no direct harm to others purely to satisfy the tastes of the people carrying out the banning is incompatible with libertarianism.

  • And anyone who thinks the majority of Swiss are wrong clearly does not respect the views of others.

    There is another, fairly recent majority decision – are you saying I should respect that one too, because I am supposed respect the views of others? What kind of logic is that?

    There are plenty of other countries where they can go and build minarets if they want.

    But aren’t they Swiss citizens? If the Swiss don’t want Muslims around, they should at least have the honesty and the balls to deport them, not to mess with building regulations.

  • RRS

    Why so much fuss over how and why the Swiss decide to use the instrumentality of their Federal government? It is, after all, a Federation of Cantons, each of which may have its own official religion. Nicholas of Flue helped resolve all that.

    It likely that minarets would only serve an exogenous population, not of Swiss origin. It is not a federation of peoples seeking to become a “melting pot,” nor to prove the value of “diversity.

    Let it go. Move on.

  • RRS Love You Man !!!

    Nicolas Von Flue, the illiterate hermit who help the Swiss avoid a civil war over the division of the spoils after they defeated Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1484 (I may be wrong here.)

    One of my favorite characters from Swiss history.

    He also allowed French speaking Fribourg into the Federation, which some German Swiss may now regret.

  • RRS: I couldn’t care less what the Swiss do in their country. This is supposed to be a mere thought exercise, to cause people re-examine their values and principles (if any).

  • Nuke Gray

    Alisa, how do you feel about noise pollution? Minarets are noisy places, I understand. What is a libertarian position on freedom from noise pollution?

  • Sunfish

    This is why I have so little faith in democracy.

    Why should architecture be subject to the vote? If a Muslim decides to build a minaret or a ham radio antenna or a hippie windmill on top of his mosque, it’s HIS mosque, ain’t it?

    Arguments that “It’s okay to ban minarets because that’s not as bad as what the Saudis do” are pointless moral equivalism. The argument that “I’m okay because I’m not as bad as a bunch of semiliterate 12th-century goat-raping thugs” is a weak one.

  • Let’s reclaim the word “progressive”.

    All together now, that is really PROGRESSIVE !

  • Nuke, I have no idea what a libertarian position would be, but my solution would be tort. And yes, they are quite noisy – there is one a walking distance from my house. In my case tort might not work though, as chances are that the minaret in question is older than my neighborhood. Besides, there are problems far worse than noise caused by those particular neighbors that we have to deal with, although those could be solved quite easily if the state did the only job it is supposed to do, or at least got out of the way.

  • semiliterate 12th-century goat-raping thugs

    How do you know those relationships are not consensual?

  • RAB

    It aint the noise or the tort, it’s the cultural imperialism.
    We are liberal and give way, they never do.

    When I see a church in Saudi I may reconsider my point of view.

  • lukas

    Progressive indeed, in the worst sense of the word.

  • Nuke Gray

    RAB, that raises the point, shouldn’t libertarians be consistent? Shouldn’t we demonstrate the way we wish that all would live, in our own societies?

  • RAB

    We dont live in the society we wish to live in do we?
    Nor will we if we carry on like this.

    How many Ayn Rand lovers can dance on the head of a pin, doesn’t interest me.

    I am a pragmatist.

    Look out the window and evaluate.

    What does it look like to you?
    Who is giving all the ground to whom?

  • But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder

    No it doesn’t. The Demos is using the power of the state to force it’s opinions on a minority.

    State power is state power, from whatever angle you choose to look.

    My land, my building, not yours. My minaret, not yours. If my building blocks your sunlight, I recompense you. If my call to prayer interferes with your peaceful enjoyment of the evening, I recompense you.

    Majority vote is of no interest to me on the matter.

  • RAB

    Sorry Cats but that is crap, and miniscule legalistic crap at that.
    Where is our compensation likely to come from?
    Who will offer it, enforce it, and for why?

    What is the very point of it but putting a bit more of their covenant up your fundamental?

    You are one of the most vociferous opponents to Fundamentalist Islam I know, like I said, look out the window…

  • tranio

    The call to prayer from a minaret is analogous to church bells. Church bells were necessary in history because ordinary people did not have clocks. Villages relied on the church clock and bells. Now everyone has clocks and watches, who needs a wail from a tower?

  • This is an interesting libertarian problem at first glance, but, I dont really think this is a freedom of religion issue. Minarets serve two functions: as a political/religious symbol, and as the structure imams climb to beckon the faithful to prayer.

    The voting majority of Swiss are saying no to allowing those structures to continue to be built, because they perceive minarets as threatening to Swiss culture.

  • SBM

    Libertarianism requires that the majority of the population believes in certain ideas. What should happen, in a libertarian society, when a group of people whose ideology is anti-libertarian thrive & expand without explicitly acting in an anti-libertarian way (yet)? i.e. what mechanisms for ideological self sustainability are permissible to libertarians?

  • Tedd

    …what mechanisms for ideological self sustainability are permissible to libertarians?

    None, I would say, unless you want to consider persuasion a “mechanism.” Ultimately, liberty can only be sustained if a critical mass of people understand what it is and want it. No procedural mechanism can protect it indefinitely.

    I don’t have any easy answers to the problem of a (relatively) liberty-respecting culture being overtaken from within by a non-liberty-respecting sub-culture. But I’m pretty sure that leaving ones self open to charges of hypocrisy (“You only support liberty when it suits you”) isn’t a good strategy.

  • this raises an interesting and very thorny questions for libertarians […] when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder

    That depends on whether you’re a liberatrian first and a democrat second, or a democrat first and a libertarian second.

  • So now every long-term investor should take note – in Switzerland the principle of private property has been rejected by a majority of the voting population for the implications it is laden with.

    The fight against Islam has its’ proper frontiers – and the Swiss (along with just about everybody else) have apparently made their decision about what these are.

    Either the fight is about the uses to which the western democratic State, with its monopoly on legally sanctioned initiatory and retaliatory force, may be put, or it is about the defence of classical liberal principles of private property, self-governance and free association. It cannot be about both, since the one is being deliberately being cultivated to extinguish the other.

    The primary historical significance of the fight against Islam is that it is a proxy by which the western world is waging war upon itself.

    “what mechanisms for ideological self sustainability are permissible to libertarians?”

    Memory – above all else.

  • indigomyth

    I agree with Counting Cats.

    Even if these minarets are expressions of the will to subjugate, that is irrelevant. They are expressions of that, nothing more, therefore commit no violence against other people.

    If they commit noise pollution, then that is the crime. Not the building of the minaret itself.

    This decision is profoundly illiberal.

  • mdc

    “Aside from all the obvious reprecussions (which are not hard to predict), it does occur to me that this raises an interesting and very thorny questions for libertarians because this is not a straightforward case of state repression.”

    Yes it is, and no it doesn’t. What does the ‘demos’ have to do with anything?

    Do those in favour of this have a legitimate claim to all the land in the country, or just those bits of it they personally own? The answer seems obvious to me, and if you concede on this point you basically have to accept the welfare state, which is fairly popular.

  • SBM:

    What should happen, in a libertarian society, when a group of people whose ideology is anti-libertarian thrive & expand without explicitly acting in an anti-libertarian way (yet)? i.e. what mechanisms for ideological self sustainability are permissible to libertarians?

    I have no problem with a community or even a state deciding that they don’t want to let certain kinds of people in: muslims, communist, jews, blacks, women (ha) – whatever. I can also understand it ththat the community might later discover that the people they let in don’t fit within the culture and even constitute a threat. I would have no moral problem if the Swiss decided that anyone who practices Islam should be deported. Same for active communists and nazis. But no, the Swiss were happy to let all these people in when they needed cheap labor, then they gave them citizenship because they wanted too feel so nice and open-minded, and now they don’t like these damn muslims any more. Well, like I said, have the balls to kick them out, or put them in jail for practicing Islam, for all I care.

    RAB, pragmatism can only get you so far. When you compromise your principles, it always comes back to bite you in the ass.

  • The Ambling Dutchman

    I believe “the Libertarian Dilemma” in this case comes from three distinct questions that have not been uttered thus far in this thread:

    1. Do you extend your own principles to those who don’t believe in your principles

    2. Do you extend your principles to those who would trample on your principles the first chance they got

    3. Do you extend your principles to those who would kill you for having principles like you do

    I have an affinity for Voltaire in this respect, loosely quoted as “I may not agree with you, but I will fight for your right to voice it”. Right now, I’m not sure that I’m comfortable to fight for someone elses opportunity to take my rights away.

    I’m (currently) of the opinion that only when we are in a society that is governed by true Libertarian principles can a principled Libertarian stance be taken. If I’m proven wrong by the participants on this forum, I welcome their teachings.

    –GJ–

  • It is not enough for us to hold firm to our principles when it suits us. We should do so thoroughly and rigorously.

    This is a clear occaision of the mob becoming overriding property rights and freedom of expression. As long as the building of a new minaret is not infringing anothers liberty, an individual, state or mob has no right to prevent its construction.

    It really is as simple as that.

  • “Do you extend your own principles…”

    Which principles?

    “I’m (currently) of the opinion that only when we are in a society that is governed by true Libertarian principles can a principled Libertarian stance be taken.”

    On what issue?

    If I’m proven wrong by the participants on this forum, I welcome their teachings.”

    How can you be proven wrong if you don’t first state your problem clearly?

  • I have a longer comment under hopeful unsmitation, so for now, in answer to Nuke:

    RAB, that raises the point, shouldn’t libertarians be consistent?

    Again, I don’t know about libertarians, but I do know that when individuals are inconsistent in their adherence to principles, it always comes back to bite them in the posterior. Pragmatism can only get you so far.

  • Alice

    Interesting discussion. Helps explain why Libertarianism has never won broad support.

    Here’s another way to look at this. Rights and responsibilities are inseparable. If you are invited over to the house of an old lady, you have a responsibility to behave like a well-mannered guest — not to slap a Rap CD into her player and crank up the volume.

    If the majority of Swiss voters decide that building a minaret is offensive to them (the hosts), then the Muslims (the guests) have a responsibility not to exercise their right to build minarets.

    Real Libertarianism holds that individuals are free to do what they want, as long as that exercise of their freedom does not impinge on anyone else. Libertarianism is actually a very restrictive doctrine. If the Swiss freedom not to see minarets in front of their mountains conflicts with the Muslim freedom to build minarets, then the Muslim freedom must go into abeyance. Especially when the Muslims are guests in another’s country.

  • Alice

    Interesting discussion. Helps explain why Libertarianism has never won broad support.

    Here’s another way to look at this. Rights and responsibilities are inseparable. If you are invited over to the house of an old lady, you have a responsibility to behave like a well-mannered guest — not to slap a Rap CD into her player and crank up the volume.

    If the majority of Swiss voters decide that building a minaret is offensive to them (the hosts), then the Muslims (the guests) have a responsibility not to exercise their right to build minarets.

    Real Libertarianism holds that individuals are free to do what they want, as long as that exercise of their freedom does not impinge on anyone else. Libertarianism is actually a very restrictive doctrine. If the Swiss freedom not to see minarets in front of their mountains conflicts with the Muslim freedom to build minarets, then the Muslim freedom must go into abeyance. Especially when the Muslims are guests in another’s country.

  • Alice

    My apologies for the double post there.

  • MarkE

    To turn the question around; am I, as a Libertarian, at liberty to go somewhere the population doesn’t want me? Am I at liberty to do something that offends my neighbours, but which does not directly harm them in any way?

    How much of the population have expressed their view here? The turnout is 2.67m, of which 57.5% voted for the ban; is this a majority in favour of a ban, or merely an indication that those supporting the ban were better at mobilising support?

  • Mark E:

    is this a majority in favour of a ban, or merely an indication that those supporting the ban were better at mobilising support?

    It doesn’t matter, because a majority can be just as wrong as one man.

    am I, as a Libertarian, at liberty to go somewhere the population doesn’t want me?

    Yes, and they are just as much at liberty to kick you out.

    Alice: ‘guests’? Don’t they have Swiss citizenship?

  • Before I go, lest anyone thinks that I underestimate the threat of Islam: I certainly don’t, but: it is common to liken Islam to cancer in the body of the Western civilization, but I prefer to think of it as pneumonia in an AIDS patient. I will leave it to any one who might be interested to figure what the equivalent of HIV would be in this little exercise in symbolism.

  • Ian Bennett

    I am astonished that this discussion is necessary here; the Swiss ruling is clearly in violation of libertarian principles as I understand them, namely that any individual has the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness so long as the identical rights of others are not infringed. In the same way that I, as an individual, would not have the right to prevent you, another individual, from building a tower on your house, neither does the state – a group of individuals – have that right. No action forbidden to an individual can be permitted to a group. In the Swiss case – where the state is acting as a result of a referendum, not of its own prejudices – this is even more clear because those individuals claiming this right have not been elected; they are simply a mob.

    Surely the only valid reply to The Ambling Dutchman’s questions is: yes, yes, and yes. If one’s principles are not extended under those circumstances, they’re not really principles, they’re pragmatic decisions.

  • Gareth

    Thaddeus Tremayne said:

    When a government says no to freedom of religious worship, it is easy to mount our high horses and ride forth bearing gleaming swords of indignation. But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder. At least, it does for me.

    Freedom of worship does not mean do as you please. Muslims are not banned. Islam is not banned. Mosques are not banned. Minarets are no more a neccessity to Islam than Church steeples are to Christianity. The libertarian movement is one of private sovereignty up to the point where it impinges on other people. The other people have spoken. That they have done so collectively does not lessen their point of view.

    Mike said:

    So now every long-term investor should take note – in Switzerland the principle of private property has been rejected by a majority of the voting population for the implications it is laden with.

    To interpret this in such a way you must assume something along the lines of that before this decision Switzerland had no planning regulations. Which is potty.

    Whoever thought Switzerland was the land of liberty? There is a form of national service!

  • mdc

    “If the majority of Swiss voters decide that building a minaret is offensive to them (the hosts), then the Muslims (the guests) have a responsibility not to exercise their right to build minarets.”

    This post really highlights why I think the anti-immigration/muslim lot on here are not real libertarians:

    If a muslim buys a piece of land, he is no one’s guest. Anyone who enters that land is his guest. They have no right to tell him what he may or may not build upon it, in general. But anti-immigration “libertarians” do not seem to extend the property rights logic to foreigners; rather, they embrace the statist/nazi idea of “the nation” owning “the country”, and thus one can be a “guest” in his own home, just because he is not part of the in-collective.

    I don’t like to say people aren’t “real” , because often ideologies are not precisely defined, but it seems here that these so-called libertarians reject the very basis of the ideology.

    Now a different, and I think valid, claim is that it is illegitimate for muslims to impose their various tyrannical feudal ideas on others, but surely you don’t need me to tell you why conceding absolute power of ‘the demos’ kills your own argument stone dead in this regard.

  • Yes, and they are just as much at liberty to kick you out.

    Alisa, that doesn’t make sense to me. A community (or society or polity, if you prefer) can act to expel a person or persons that they regard as undesirable or threatening but they are not entitled to tell that person not to build certain structures on their land?

  • This should just be treated as a planning issue case by case. That it isn’t and that there is a federal ban on a type of structure is ludicrous.

    If the Swiss don’t want to be Islamicised then just don’t let it happen! This is the mob gaining an ultimately self-defeating victory.

    As it stands this just looks like and is prejudice. If the Swiss really wanted to tackle the unpleasantnesses that all to often come in Islam’s wake then fine: take-on terrorism, sexism, anti-semitism etc and not the bloody architecture!

    If an imam is channeling funds to AQ or buying lots of fertilizer with intent or making death threats then call the cops but it is hardly the fault of the bricks and mortar.

    In answer to Thaddeus’s original question… I make no distinction between a mob and a government. In fact the two seem very similar to me.

  • TT: if Switzerland had rules in place forbidding the construction of minarets before this particular wave of immigrants came there, I would have absolutely no problem with that. Also, if the law just passed said that no one in Switzerland can build tall towers on top of the building they own, it would be just another statist building regulation, and we wouldn’t even have heard about it. As to deportation or similar measures against Muslims, it would have to be considered on an individual basis. Incidentally, I have no problem with Joseph McCarthy’s approach to the problem of threatening ideologies.

  • I make no distinction between a mob and a government. In fact the two seem very similar to me.

    Good to have you back here, Nick.

  • michael farris

    This is the equivalent of a community voting to not allow buildings past a certain height in a neighborhood or to not allow a pig-slaughtering facility to be built in an otherwise residential area – it’s roughly a zoning issue that can be defended on architectural and cultural grounds. The Swiss majority want Swiss cities to look Swiss. Big deal.

    That might not be appealing to hardcore Libertarians, but it’s no more inherently disturbing than all sorts of other restrictions that normal people don’t mind. Do I find it a hateful abridgement of my rights that I can’t erect giant pornographic displays of a zoophilic and/or pedophilic nature on my own property that passers by or neighbors would inevitably see (even if they don’t stare)? Do Libertarians?
    A minaret is in that same category, a visual detail that cannot be unseen by others (who in this case would prefer to not see it).

    One interesting question would a minaret that is behind some other structure and not visible from the street be covered? I would say no and would be against outlawing minarets that are only visible to those who have voluntarily entered the premises.

    Since no one’s ability to follow Islam or build mosques without visible minarets (which mosques are not required to have) has been abridged this is a very small civil rights issue that only the most ideologically pure will take up and will win no converts to lower or upper case libertarianism.

  • michael,

    outlawing minarets that are only visible to those who have voluntarily entered the premises

    Pretty much by definition that would require violation not just of Swiss laws but those of spacetime.

    The point is it’s specifically minarets and has nothing to do with you erecting the “Great Spire of the Farrasites”.

    A minaret is in that same category, a visual detail that cannot be unseen by others (who in this case would prefer to not see it).

    Yeah, and Muslims occasionally creat because there is a boozer or knocking shop or bingo hall near the mosque. Same thing.

    I’m not ideologically pure (how can individualism be an ideology?) but a blanket ban on a certain type of structure regardless of it’s visual impact in the specific circumstances is ludicrous and nasty.

  • Ian Bennett

    TT said:

    “The libertarian movement is one of private sovereignty up to the point where it impinges on other people. The other people have spoken. That they have done so collectively does not lessen their point of view.”

    So if twenty people say you should not be allowed to drink in your local, does that make it a legitimate decision? Of course not because you are not, in the normal meaning of the word, impinging on them. Residents may not like the look of a minaret but that does not give them the right to apply their own arbitrary standards on the property of others.

    Minarets may not be necessary to the practice of Islam any more than bell-towers are to the practice of Christianity; that is not the issue. The golden arches are not necessary to the consumption of hamburgers, but that is not just reason to ban them,, even if the entire population of Switzerland wishes to do so.

  • mdc

    “This should just be treated as a planning issue case by case.”

    “it’s roughly a zoning issue that can be defended on architectural and cultural grounds”

    Since when did libertarians support planning and zoning laws? And arbitrary state “culture” imposed by force?

    If even Samizdata basically agrees with Atlee on this issue, where can the true radical turn?

  • “Alisa, that doesn’t make sense to me. A community (or society or polity, if you prefer) can act to expel a person or persons that they regard as undesirable or threatening but they are not entitled to tell that person not to build certain structures on their land?”

    I agree neither with Alisa, nor with you Thaddeus. What constitutes “undesirable”? Would serious criticism of a popular government count? Because if you think it does, then I certainly wouldn’t count you an ally.

    It is a property issue and that’s it – planning is something properly discussed in terms of the necessity or otherwise of compensation between various property owning individuals.

    Gareth: just think of me as artistic in my illustration of the point.

  • Since no one’s ability to follow Islam or build mosques without visible minarets (which mosques are not required to have) has been abridged this is a very small civil rights issue that only the most ideologically pure will take up and will win no converts to lower or upper case libertarianism.

    I dunno – the fact that lots of people here stick up for the right of a culture they loathe to build structures they don’t appreciate does demonstrate a respectable consistency, and that’s worth a lot. If there’s any damage to the Libertarian movement being done by discussing this issue in public, it’s being done by the people who announce their willingness to ignore basic property rights principles on the basis of what religion the building permit applicant practices. Towers ok in general, but not if they’re “minarets” – THOSE people. Sorry guys, but there’s simply no libertarian analysis that allows you to apply property rights to individuals equally bucept when you don’t like them. Just like freedom of speech is useless if we grant it exclusively to people the government agrees with, property rights are useless if they only exist to protect sanctioned uses of property. If the minaret is not violating anyone’s rights – and how could it possibly be? – there is no moral basis for banning it. So stop talking as though there were. Just stop.

  • This is what happens when mob rule meets planning law.

    The minaret is a symbol of power, just as any Cathedral is, but it is just a building. However, if one group is allowed to build so high, then everyone else should be free to. If everyone is limited to 6 storeys, then a minaret should be limited to a similar height. While there is planning law, that law should apply to all equally and uniformly with no special cases for or against.

    p.s. it is the Muezzin who makes the call to prayer, not the Imam.

  • James Waterton

    I am surprised by the number of people claiming this is a grey area. Nonsense, it’s nothing of the sort – it’s profoundly wrong from a liberal perspective. Furthermore, for the most part I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about the majority vote. I support individual rights, not majoritarian rights. The latter is clearly illiberal and often thuggish.

  • Question

    Are we really dealing with private property ? I believe that in Switzerland, as in most of Europe, Churches and Synagogues are paid for and maintained by the state. Are Swiss Mosques also paid for by Swiss taxes ?

    If they are paid for by the Saudi state are they also not paid for by government taxation ? (On the oil we all use.)

  • Yes, what James said. People have a right to build minarets on their private property.

    And with respect to democracy, this is surely pretty closely related to the question of whether it is right for property to be stolen if 51% of the population votes for it. And of course it isn’t.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    What Joshua said

  • Brad

    The crux of libertarianism is protecting the individual from the majority. Saying a government is simply the conduit of the will of the majority doesn’t make a difference – it’s a bad government. A government, if there is to be one, should protect people otherwise living productively and peacefully from other individuals regardless of how many of them there are (a vocal minority, a majority, etc etc).

    As for the specific case at hand, I dislike a lot of what other people believe and how they behave. But dangers need to be clear and present before the role of the government comes into the picture. I work in an industry that has many, many muslims as customers. They are productive and peaceful and are making a living like anyone else. They have a right to worship as they please.

    If there is going to be a reckoning between western and eastern ideals, then fine. Puny, yet tyrannical, blows don’t accomplish a whole lot. Radicalizing even more people and accomplishing nothing against radical Islam seems to do more harm than good.

  • Laird

    This has been a very interesting thread. Most participants appear to be coming down on the “classic” libertarian side of support for personal property rights, and I don’t disagree with that. However, as Mr. Tremayne noted, there is more to this issue.

    Minarets, as symbols of power, are proxies for Islamic supremacy. Similarly, this vote is a proxy for majority Swiss rejection of Islamicism. Their government, composed (as are all governments) of self-annointed elites craving approval by their peers, won’t oppose the spread of that plague, so the rank-and-file are doing the only thing they can do to slow it down. Unlibertarian? Certainly (not that Switzerland is a hotbed of libertarianism). Ineffective? Probably. Symbolic? Without a doubt.

    I’m not privy to the local conditions in Switzerland, but I have a hard time believing that this could have become an issue at all, let alone made it to a national referendum, unless there has been a proliferation of new mosques (all with in-your-face minarets) and agitation by radical clerics. The Swiss populace can’t be blind to the activities of radical Islamists in Holland, France, and elsewhere in Europe over the last few years. This isn’t so much a referendum on minarets as a shot across the bow of the political elites: keep these rabble on a very short leash or your term in office will be brief. And that’s a good thing.

    Radical Islam is an evil force in the modern world. The fact that it is inextricably intertwined with (allegedly) non-radical Islam shows that it is Islam itself, and not just the radical elements within it, which is evil. If our libertarian sensibilities require us to hold our noses and tolerate its presence in our midst, at least we need to be alert to the danger it presents and prepared to take action if necessary. The libertarian tenet against the initiation of force doesn’t preclude self-defense, and self-defense can include pre-emptive action. We don’t have to permit the dog a first bite before we act.

  • We don’t have to permit the dog a first bite before we act.

    In civil law, yes we do. That is what due process of law is: it’s not shipping the dog off to the pound until it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it bit someone. “Seems like the type to bite someone” doesn’t cut it. To be clear, no one is denying that there’s a safety tradeoff here, we’re just saying that no one who makes that tradeoff in the manner you are suggesting is a liberal.

  • The Ambling Dutchman

    “Do you extend your own principles…”

    Which principles?

    Your own. You can call them Libertarian principles / Libertarian beliefs / Libertarian dogma / Libertarian pragmatism. It’s the extent and application of your political principles.

    “I’m (currently) of the opinion that only when we are in a society that is governed by true Libertarian principles can a principled Libertarian stance be taken.”

    On what issue?

    On issues that will attack Libertarian principles.

    If I’m proven wrong by the participants on this forum, I welcome their teachings.”

    How can you be proven wrong if you don’t first state your problem clearly?

    My apologies. I rarely have the clarity of thought to write short notes and get my thoughts across. I will attempt a lengthier approach, so here goes:

    I believe (and I may be wrong) that the dilemma as voiced in the article has nothing to do with minarets, or with democracy as such. The minarets don’t pose a threat to anyone, so banning them is clearly un-libertarian. And a referendum does not show what is right, it just shows a majority opinion, which in a libertarian society would be seen as a (strong) request to accommodate, but not a demand.

    I was not responding to that.

    However, in this case, there is an interesting line in the sand. One of the duties of a libertarian society is to protect against an aggressor. It’s all very well to say “I will stand up for the right of someone else to kill me”, but that is nonsense; if someone attacks you, you have a right to defend yourself. In a society, the same is true and necessary.

    So, when we talk about minarets, we can show that they do not form a threat. Easy peasy.

    Now let’s talk about a society that forms within your society with its own set of rules and guidelines. You’re not affected, so you cannot morally interfere. Easy peasy again.

    Now that society creates its own laws. It lashes a 16 year old for wearing a knee-high skirt (to pick something at random). What is your moral responsibility now? You are not affected (apart from some emo-ing), so you can happily ignore this event. (Can you?)

    Now that society within your society starts to claim that you need to put curtains in your pub windows, because you’re across their place of worship (to pick something else at random). You are somewhat affected, but you can a good neighbour and decide to comply. (This can be a sore point: you put up curtains to hide your drinking from the faithful, and they use a minaret to make your hangover worse.)

    Then your society within your society fosters an environment for young impressionable young men to go out and attack aggressors all over the world. Blow up a couple of buildings, train stations, shoot 14 people in an army base, etc.

    Where do you say “hang on… I have given your society all the freedoms that I value, and in turn you create people who would rather kill me than allow me to live my own life”. I believe the “hang on” part was triggered by the Swiss (I also believe it was triggered *way* too soon).

    The problem with dogma (even libertarian dogma) is that it doesn’t work when you’re up against someone who is stronger than you are.

    So… do you die with your principles, or do you embrace nasty pragmatism? At some point, in the real world, you will have to choose.

    That’s what I was trying to come to:

    If everyone in society truly embraces libertarian principles, it’s really easy to stick with a 100 percent principled libertarian stance.

    If you’re in a libertarian society and you allow factions to form who can remove the libertarian principles from your society (by might, money, swaying public opinion, etc), then where do you stand?

    If you are NOT in a libertarian society, then how do you uphold libertarian principles in the face of fascism / bigotry / democratic process / sharia law / money / ku klux klan / fractional reserve banking / public schooling / …

    If you are truly in favour of a libertarian society, then you have to figure out how to protect that society and you have to figure out when to protect that society, and that *will* involve force at some point. Because if you don’t figure this out, not only is it unlikely that you will not get to a libertarian society, but you are guaranteed not to be able to sustain it.

    There are loads of people who believe that you should only be allowed to behave in a way that they approve of. This has always been so. If you don’t figure out a way to deal with this, you will end up behaving in a way that they approve of.

    –GJ–

  • The Ambling Dutchman

    dammit.

    if you don’t figure this out, not only is it unlikely that you will not get to a libertarian society, but you are guaranteed not to be able to sustain it.

    Too many “not”s in one sentence. Please replace with:

    if you don’t figure this out, then you will not get to a libertarian society, and if you do it is guaranteed to disappear.

    –GJ–

  • Alice

    “The crux of libertarianism is protecting the individual from the majority.”

    This reminds me of the standard left-wing brain brain-dead nonsense about ‘international law’ — as in the law that the community of nations broke when it decided to get rid of Saddam Hussein in the only way possible.

    This discussion is certainly making me rethink whether libertarianism has any meaning. Who is supposed to ‘protect’ the individual from the majority? Is libertarianism functionally equivalent to a despotic rule of which a handful of libertarians happen to approve? Is there any difference between this libertarianism and totalitarianism?

    Many thanks to our Ambling Dutch friend for wrestling with this problem.

  • Gabriel

    A lot of tripe in this thread. Here’s the crux of this issue: this referendum is one thread in the greater fabric that will preserve civilized, free and ordered life in Switzerland, long after most of the rest of Europe has totally succmbed to the curiously loathsome amalgum of tyranny and anarchy, which has not yet fully manifested itself, but is intimated by every movement of our polity, more and more plainly by the day.

    If this doesn’t fit with your principles, then that means one thing and one thing only. Go back to the drawing board and re-think your principles, because they are plainly woefully useless in the quest to either construct or preserve a society worth living in. Switzerland has voted to remain such a society, wheras Britain has not. The Swiss are not willing to be lab rats in a great social experiment, nor are they willing to bet their children’s future on a bunch of ideas. You are and that’s fortunate for you, because that’s exactly what you’ve chosen to live through. It’s not so lucky for those of us who will undoubtedly have to flee the country within the next 50 years because of the likes of you.

    I don’t blame Muslims for being part of a civilization dedicated to expansion and subjugation. They are both natural and, in a sense, healthy facets of humanity, if not exactly edifying. I blame you dumbasses for not even having the will to preserve your existence. The suicidal ethic of the Gospel is triumphant in Europe as never before, though it wears secular clothes. But it will not be triumphant long, because all it has to offer is defeat and, eventually, death. Libertarianism, in all sorts of ways, stands out from the ethic and programme of the governing class, but in the most key area of all it is exactly the same. Unable to conceive of any basis for ethical obligation beyond the felt need of individuals (aggregated or atomised) it can see only an endless present and, so, having no past it is inacapable of having any conception of the future. And that, too, is grimly fortunate, because, as I have said, it has no future.

  • p.s. it is the Muezzin who makes the call to prayer, not the Imam.

    Whoever he is, why does he have to do it at 5am?

  • Midwesterner

    Laird and the Ambling Dutchman have made the points and asked the questions that stand out to me. First, I seriously doubt this is about ‘steeples, but not minarets’. There may be some aesthetically motivated voters but I suspect this is not about architecture. Why would voters single out Muslims? Could it be that there is a pattern they are trying to interrupt? Interesting, the transparent threat in the quoted Islamic leader’s choice of words.

    “It’s a dirty campaign,” said Mutalip Karaademi, an Albanian who leads Langenthal’s small Muslim community. “They’re trying to provoke us.”

    […]

    Tatiana, a teacher who had previously voted for the left, was quoted in a newspaper as saying she would vote for the minaret ban as she could “no longer bear being mistreated and terrorised by boys who believe women are worthless”.

    Laird hit the issue. This is a shot across the bow of, not the Muslims, but the Swiss government and elected officials. I strongly suspect that the Muslims are seeking provocations and the government of Switzerland are doing what the governments of most of the rest of Europe are doing.

  • Alice, you appear to be confusing libertarianism with brute majoritarianism, when they are philosophically almost diametrically opposed to each other.

  • Christian

    So much for religious freedom.

    And some seem to have forgotten that some cantons i Switzerland did not vote to ban minarets. I’m not sure, but I think the ban is not nationwide. The Swiss cantons have a lot to say in all national matters.

  • Gabriel:

    I blame you dumbasses for not even having the will to preserve your existence.

    I don’t know if I am included in that address of yours, but if I am, then you certainly misunderstand my position, which is that all those imams in all those mosques preaching against my civilization would have long ago been either deported or behind bars if it was up to me.

    According to some here the Swiss population is going after their enemies’ symbols, since their government wouldn’t go and wouldn’t let them go after the enemies themselves. If this is true (which I doubt), then this law is not just wrong, it is stupid as well. If Muslims are a threat, deal with Muslims, not their architecture. If your government won’t let you, deal with your government.

    This whole thing just reminded me of all those idiots in various hellholes burning American flags and Bush’s effigies every time they get upset about something or other. What a rational behavior to emulate.

  • Mid:

    Laird hit the issue. This is a shot across the bow of, not the Muslims, but the Swiss government and elected officials. I strongly suspect that the Muslims are seeking provocations and the government of Switzerland are doing what the governments of most of the rest of Europe are doing.

    If only it was this simple: government bad, people good. Sorry, but there was a reason all those Muslims were let in there in the first place: cheap labor. Which is fine, only they turned out to be, um, ‘different from us’. No shit Sherlock, who would have thunk it? I can bet you good money that every person who voted for this law would rather see every Muslim man, woman or child disappear from their country overnight. So yes, government certainly bad, but the people not so good either.

  • Kim du Toit

    I was going to write something trenchant, but Gabriel wrote it for me. (Bravo, Gabriel.)

    This issue has nothing to do with building rights, or architectural principle, individual rights, or any of the other angels that libertarians habitually set to dancing on the heads of pins.

    It is, au fond, the simple decision of a community to preserve elements of its culture where that culture is being threatened by another which is not only nakedly hostile, but historically and universally so.

    The sounds of church bells are an enduring facet of the Swiss culture, so of course they’re not going to let themselves be held hostage to the simplistic babble that “it’s all religious noise, man” (and therefore that all religious noise should be treated equally).

    This is what happens when one allows “logic” to dictate (mostly, nonsensically) social and cultural policy.

    African tribal drums are folk music; so are Christmas carols like Ave Verum. The fact that my society might actually prefer the beautiful classical music and language of the latter over the thumping primal noise of the former might give my libertarian friends fits, but them’s the breaks.

    Of course libertarians are going to have a conniption fit over the “tyranny of the majority” — except that this particular minority is of the malevolent kind which caused even liberal modern-day Germany recently to put an asterisk on their constitutional principle of freedom of speech.

    And the comparisons to what Christian churches have to endure in places like Saudi Arabia are absolutely appropriate — simply because, if the radical mullahs had their way, they’d do precisely the same to Christian churches in Switzerland if they could get away with it. And anyone who denies that this is true needs to wake up and read — nay, not just read but understand — the true tenets of Islam, especially the brand of Islam preached by these fanatics.

    Good for the Swiss. We need to have some of their cultural backbone ourselves instead of repeatedly sacrificing our culture on the altar of PoMo correctness.

  • Midwesterner

    Either that, Alisa, or they would like them held to the same standards of behavior enforced on everybody else. There is no referendum that says to the government ‘equal enforcement, we really mean it’. It is looking clearer to me that this is not about the presence of people who happen to be Muslim, it is about the license for combative, assertive and abusive behavior being extended to one small subset of people. Seriously, how can voters say to the government, ‘The law, we really mean it. No exceptions for people who really really believe in inflicting their misogyny on the non-consenting ’cause God told em to.’?

    What is different here is that via direct democracy, the Swiss do have a way of exerting (somewhat clumsy) control over their state. What would a UK referendum say about the selective blindness exercised by its totally unaccountable government? Realize that the polls were way off on this Swiss vote. When the government that is supposed to be upholding the law is suborned, those under attack will grab any weapon within reach.

    When the referee is only calling infractions against you while your opponent is using knees an elbows, the wisdom of continuing to engage by Marquess of Queensberry rules is certainly open to debate. I see this as an effort for, not against, equal enforcement of laws. It may or may not be bad tactically but I think declaring it to be immoral is a mistake. Especially as the uniform nature of outcomes elsewhere make very clear the consequence of asymmetrical tolerance.

  • Alice

    “Alice, you appear to be confusing libertarianism with brute majoritarianism”

    Don’t think so. But I am struggling with what may be an ‘internal contradiction’ in my understanding of libertarianism. The Ambling Dutchman has expressed my concern more coherently. Any guidance gratefully received!

    So the majority decides on No Minarets. The libertarian says this is wrong, and the decision of the majority must be over-ruled. But who will impose that over-rule?

    Is the majority itself to prevent itself from imposing its own decision?

    Or is a minority to prevent the majority from imposing its decision, by force if necessary?

    Chairman Mao famously said that all power proceeds out of the barrel of a gun. Is that what libertarianism depends on, in the end?

    My earlier view was that libertarianism depended on what might be called (for want of a better term) ‘good manners’. But the Ambling Dutchman blew that thought away.

    So all that is left is the contradiction.

  • Kim du Toit:

    “And the comparisons to what Christian churches have to endure in places like Saudi Arabia are absolutely appropriate — simply because, if the radical mullahs had their way, they’d do precisely the same to Christian churches in Switzerland if they could get away with it.”

    Maybe they would, but I don’t see that as any reason to copy their approach.

  • Chairman Mao famously said that all power proceeds out of the barrel of a gun. Is that what libertarianism depends on, in the end?

    In my view, ultimately yes. Only scratch ‘libertarianism’ and replace with ‘life’. We are not talking about an ideal situation where everyone agrees to play nice, because that is never the case.

  • People can write books, make speeches, preach, or build tall Islamic buildings on their own land. They can try if they like to dominate our civilisation. And we can write books, make speeches, preach against Islam, or build giant 200 ft high crosses or giant statues of sacred dogs called “Allah” on our own land bordering their mosques, and we can seek to dominate their civilisation by any legitimate means too. We can erect a giant plastic model of the “Mo with bomb in his turban” 900 feet tall right in front of their mosque, with a hole through the middle they have to walk through, if we like. Say it’s art. That’s the proper response.

    The correct response to speech you don’t like is not to ban the speech, but to speak back, only harder. The same goes for intimidating architectural phallic symbols. The problem is not that they are allowed to try to dominate us, but that we fail (or are not allowed) to stand up for our own values, our own civilisation.

    People are too used to being passive and uninvolved, letting things drift. The infantilisation of statism, maybe? And people are far too used to banning things that are not liked. There are a hundred better things you can do! Laugh at it. Erect signs for tourists announcing “See the giant Muslim phallus!” in 20 ft high letters right outside their minaret. They can’t stop you! That’s free speech! Use it!

  • Midwesterner

    P.A.,

    Their own government would never allow those things. That is why I see this as being mostly between the voters and ‘their’ government.

  • Mid, as I pointed out in earlier comments here, I took this as a theoretical thought exercise. I have obviously digressed from that, which is not good, since I haven’t been to Switzerland and have no idea what were all those voters actually thinking. Since you haven’t been there either, your guess must be as good/bad as mine. But, I think that the general point I was trying to make in my reply to you still stands: in a democracy, even an imperfect one (and the Swiss with their direct votes seem to have it a bit closer to perfect then the rest of us) you can never hold the government solely responsible for anything. Politicians do tend to follow the public mood, especially, I would presume, an armed public like the Swiss one. I seriously doubt that this is as simple as ‘people against the government’, but rather it is ‘people against Muslims’. Obviously, I sympathize with that sentiment, but the law passed is still wrong, for reasons both moral and practical.

  • Alice,

    “Chairman Mao famously said that all power proceeds out of the barrel of a gun. Is that what libertarianism depends on, in the end?”

    Libertarian power supposedly proceeds from everybody having guns. Haven’t you ever seen the standard libertarian view on gun ownership? ;)

  • Their own government would never allow those things.

    I doubt it Mid. I get the feeling that Switzerland is still very different from the rest of Europe, in that if they really wanted to do any of the things Pa correctly suggested, their government could stop them – but I could be wrong.

  • I meant I doubt their government could stop them.

  • Mid,

    Yeah. But I’m talking about the libertarian ideal. My idea of it, anyway.

    Obviously in a statist state, you’re going to ban stuff. And if you really have to ban stuff, I’d rather it be Islam than drinking or being offensive, say. But that doesn’t mean I have to approve of it.

  • And, Mid, what if instead of banning minarets, the Swiss voted, say, to sterilize all Muslims, against the clear wishes of their government?

  • Alice:

    So the majority decides on No Minarets. The libertarian says this is wrong, and the decision of the majority must be over-ruled. But who will impose that over-rule? Is the majority itself to prevent itself from imposing its own decision? Or is a minority to prevent the majority from imposing its decision, by force if necessary?

    There are two separate issues in there, the moral (what is right?) and the practical (how do we achieve what is right?). I don’t necessarily think that everybody who would call themselves libertarian would say that what is wrong must immediately be over-ruled.

    Chairman Mao famously said that all power proceeds out of the barrel of a gun. Is that what libertarianism depends on, in the end?

    It’s what political power depends on. Majority decision making relies on the majority using the threat of force to impose their will. In the main, libertarianism will use force only in response to somebody else threatening force first.

    My earlier view was that libertarianism depended on what might be called (for want of a better term) ‘good manners’.

    In general, I’d say your previous statement was pretty close to the mark:

    Real Libertarianism holds that individuals are free to do what they want, as long as that exercise of their freedom does not impinge on anyone else.

    Where I differ from you is the way you interpret that, particularly what constitutes “impinge,” such as in:

    If the Swiss freedom not to see minarets in front of their mountains conflicts with the Muslim freedom to build minarets, then the Muslim freedom must go into abeyance.

    By most definitions, the former isn’t a freedom.

  • Midwesterner

    Actually, Alisa, I quoted two people, a Muslim ‘leader’ and a teacher who voted. The Muslim made a threat and the teacher had been the victim of Muslim values. Two datums are hardly ‘data’, but they are where I started from.

    And sooner or later, we have to admit that this (and much else beside) is about controlling our own governments. A government with enforcement powers that uses them asymmetrically is a tool of violence, not justice. At some point that has to be addressed by whatever means are available. The Swiss voters may have made a tactical error, but without knowing more about Swiss politics I can’t judge that. In this case, I personally am not going to make a moral judgment on how otherwise peaceable people should go about recapturing their peace against the loyalties of their own government. The Swiss have reacted fairly early in the procession of conquest but as I have not seen any country reverse the process of Islamic conquest in the contemporary world, I am not going to say they over-reacted or acted too soon.

    When we condemn the Swiss voters for not voting libertarian values, it reminds me of the joke, “if only we had horses, we could buy saddles and ride.”

    And equating restriction on the building of new and towering symbols of religious conquest with forced sterilization!? You don’t see a difference there? Is the ban on billboard advertising for properties in my area equivalent to sterilizing the residents?

  • Laird

    I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing (in large measure) with both Gabriel and Kim du Toit. I think I need a drink!

    Gabriel made one statement which I didn’t understand, though: “Libertarianism, in all sorts of ways, stands out from the ethic and programme of the governing class, but in the most key area of all it is exactly the same. Unable to conceive of any basis for ethical obligation beyond the felt need of individuals (aggregated or atomised) it can see only an endless present and, so, having no past it is inacapable of having any conception of the future.” Could you expand upon that, please? What is an “endless present”?

  • M

    I agree with Gabriel here. Defending European civilisation is more important than rigid adherence to libertarian principle, and I applaud the Swiss for throwing this brickbat at multiculturalism and the politics of guilt. I also applaud the French people in Marseille who object to the mega mosque being built there (partly with Algerian government money to boot).

    I am sure we will hear much from the European and American media for months to come how terrible and evil Swiss people are for defying the views of leftist and politically correct right elites of the West. But I say good for them for wanting Switzerland to be Switzerland.

  • Nuke Gray

    Au contraire, I prefer libertarianism to European Culture, because modern Europe is heading towards Eurotopia, a bureaucratic Fascist state. I like the individualist ideals of Europe, while lamenting the lack of rights in it. The Welfare state is NOT the highest human aspiration, but try telling Europeans that!

  • Lee

    This issue has stimulated much debate but, to me, it is fairly straight forward.

    The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.

    Minarets clearly infringe on the rights of others through noise pollution, dominating the skyline (visual pollution) and, arguably, by restricting the personal privacy of neighbouring property owners (overlooking gardens etc.)

    If I wished to build a 50ft, golden phallus on the top of my home that belted out ‘Its Chico Time’ at all hours of the day and night, Im fairly sure the same people on here arguing aganist Swiss ‘totalitarianism’ would be defending my neighbours rights to block my planning permission. Personally, I find the ‘Chico Time Chubby’ less offensive than that tower of repression; the minaret.

    The Swiss people have simply denied planning permission on the basis of perfectly legitimate libertarian concerns. Good for them.

  • Gabriel

    We can erect a giant plastic model of the “Mo with bomb in his turban” 900 feet tall right in front of their mosque, with a hole through the middle they have to walk through, if we like.

    But we can’t and there’s not point in pretending we can and, frankly, I’m not sure what the point is in even discussing this issue with people who seem to live in a parallel universe. Again, we are not dealing with some abstraction here, but our concrete future and that of our children. What on earth is the point in pretending we can wage some sort of private-property kulturkampf, when it’s abundantly clear that if we tried any such thing we’d go to prison. What is the point? What are you trying to prove? And further, what are you trying to prove with these “if we stoop to their level” arguments. At the risk of tedium, this is not a game, this is real life.

    Laird, I mean this. Modern political philosophy is based upon aggregating interests and rights of living citizens and arriving at a fair outcome. Libertarianism differs from the dominant creed because it thinks that healthcare isn’t a right and right to bear arms is, but it is exactly the same in having no place for the interests of either the past or the future, or even a vocabulary for expressing what that might mean. The upshot of this is that wheras Libertarianism is a very effective analytical tool for say, arbitrating in disputes between the desires of some to smoke and the desires of other to be in a smoke free environment (by invoking private property rights to side with the former unless they violate said rights), it is totally unequipped to make any sort of rational pronouncement when arbitrating between our interest in the long term viability of western civilization and the private property rights of Muslim citizens. Accordingly, all doctrinaire libertarians can do is either deny that there is a problem or offer glib solutions that have no bearing on reality. Thinking seriously about the long term challenges posed to our civilization by the importation of an alien (and inherently public) politico-religious system is an impossiblity within the bounds of the libertarian meta-thingy (I forget Perry’s handy term).

    Incidentally, the ban on minarets seems a sensible way of effectively prohibiting the spread of Islam as politico-religious entity whilst allowing individual Muslims with economic skills to enter the economy. Those Muslims who wish to live within an Islamic environment will simply not enter the country, or leave pretty sharply. Those nominal Muslims who aren’t bothered will. This seems a lot better than Alisa’s soliution of leeting all and sundry in and then expelling or imprisoning those who turn out to be “extremists”.

    Again, I simply don’t understand the willingness of some here to gamble their country on an ideology. Sure, it might turn out that Europe manages to find a way to peacably accomodate a Muslim minority (which would be unprecedented), but it might not. Why take the risk? What cost-benefit calculation could possibly justify it? And why, finally, are you so keen that the Swiss follow your lead?

    P.S. Switzerland also prohibits the practice of Kosher slaughter and does so, fairly unambiguously, to limit the growth of a Jewish community committed to a full Jewish lifestyle. Now, it’s not insurmountable because Jews there can import meat, but I can tell you from experience that they pay through the nose for total junk (even more than in the rest of Europe and that’s saying something). Accordingly, the Jewish community in Switzerland is and remains small, certainly too small to significantly impair social cohesion. As a kosher Jew, I think that’s fine and I understand why the Swiss want to preserve their unique cultural model. It’s their country and, for the most part, it’s a pretty darn nice country and they want to keep it that way. Good for them.

  • Al As-dair

    At the risk of a simple response, so the mosque has to build a “church steeple” rather than a “minaret” ? Is that a big deal ?

    Purity of principle (libertarian or otherwise) sounds nice at the beginning – until reality intervenes and said purity of principle gets in the way …

    Since when, in practical terms, is it a “right” to do whatever one wants with one’s own property ?

    The last time I checked, only the most fanatical of libertarians supports the right of an individual to build a potentially functioning atomic bomb on his own property … or even some much less destructive (yet still destructive) device …

    As far as I know, for many people, that which leads down the path to sharia law is considered to be destructive …

    And, for those who consider the example to be far-fetched – consider Lebanon …

    Up until the 1970s, as I recall, Lebanon was a Christian country, with its own problems, yet considered to be a remarkably good example of what a country can be … then it underwent the transition to where it is now considered to be an Islamic country … realists admit that the transition was highly destructive …

    Should a pure-at-heart libertarian be proud of what happened to Lebanon ?

    Should a pure-at-heart libertarian sit back equally proudly as other countries face up to that distinct possibility in their own future ?

  • Nuke Gray

    Al As-Dair, Lebanon had a rigid Constitution, with fixed quotas. It could not adapt to changing demographics. It would be a lesson against a quota-based society.
    And does anyone know what is happening in Algeria? I’ve heard that many people are becoming Christians, thanks to Evangelical churches. If so, what will happen when Algeria has a Christian majority?

  • Sunfish

    The last time I checked, only the most fanatical of libertarians supports the right of an individual to build a potentially functioning atomic bomb on his own property … or even some much less destructive (yet still destructive) device …

    Do minarets explode and take out the neighbors’ homes, more often than steeples or cupolas?

  • I long ago decided anarchy doesn’t function in the world we live in. When the meanest SOB in the Valley of the Shadow of Death decides to go on a rampage, collective action works to slow him down or stop him.

    This discussion has convinced me doctrinaire libertarianism is equally useless.

    When faced with a real-world threat, do something about it. When it’s a collective threat, do it collectively. If at all possible, make a statement before things go so far that only violence will do. Saying “but they aren’t harming me yet” is contemptible, after you’ve seen the burning cars in Paris.

  • RAB

    And from Switzerland itself, we have the world reaction to this…

    http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/front/Swiss_minaret_ban_sends_ripples_worldwide.html?siteSect=105&sid=11562902&cKey=1259614817000&ty=st

    Libya talks of religious freedom when fartypants Gadblowoff hires 500 hookers for the evening while in Italy and tries to convert them to Islam at 50 euros a go and a free Koran plus his Green Book?

    Burlosconni came up with the names from his own diary in thirty minutes apparently.

  • “…it is totally unequipped to make any sort of rational pronouncement when arbitrating between our interest in the long term viability of western civilization and the private property rights of Muslim citizens.”

    Balls. How is a future Swiss going to live in his pucker Swiss culture when its’ integrity to the concept of private property has become, at best, rather tenuous?

    Imagine what he might tell you: “You know anything I want to do with my property is subject to the approval of government – or of my neighbours – but that’s alright because at least I don’t need to worry about Muslims coming to enslave or kill me like the rotten infidel I am.”

    To the extent that Swiss people value living their own individual lives with a large measure of freedom, then what they are doing IS undermining the future viability of their own culture – for god’s sake man.

    Yes there must be a response to the very real cultural threat posed by Islam – and yes PA’s towers are daft – but the threat of Islam within Europe exists primarily through their attempts to control the democratic state. The obvious answer is to reduce the scope of the state – is it an answer with a realistic chance of success in the short term? Probably not no. Why? Perhaps it is because not enough people are willing to walk far enough down the road of civil disobedience.

    Go to prison with the hope of freedom, or let the prison come to you without any cultural memory – without even the very concept of any such hope?

  • If the muslim people who want to build mosques are so addicted to minarets, and can’t build a mosque without one, then they should invent a new sect that makes mosques without minarets.
    How hard is this? Protestants have been doing it for centuries.
    But then, as my brother-in-law says, Islam isn’t a religion….it is a political ideology masquerading as a religion. I think he is quoting someone else when he says that.
    And we all know that political ideologies are WAY more rigid and anal than religions.

  • And equating restriction on the building of new and towering symbols of religious conquest with forced sterilization!? You don’t see a difference there?

    Of course I see a difference, but it is quantitative, not qualitative. AFAICS, there are 3 issues here: the fairly straight-forward one of pure “libertarian” principle of private property and equality under the law. The other is the somewhat murky one of what actually happened and the real motives and thoughts behind it. The third one and the most interesting to me (and incidentally the one I took the original post to be about) is the ‘government vs the people’, and it is also, interestengly enough, the one you are addressing. We all know that the people oppose the government in this case, and we also know that they have good reasons to do so. The big question is how much of this particular decision based on their opposition to their government (with those good reasons in mind), and how much is based on good old bigotry. None of us knows the full answer to this particular question (see point two), but I doubt that it is totally unreasonable to absolutely rule out the bigotry element, at least for the sake of a theoretical discussion – hence my sterilization example.

  • Tangurena


    Minarets are noisy places, I understand. What is a libertarian position on freedom from noise pollution?

    Noise pollution ordinances already eliminated the practice of Adhan (the call to prayer), so minarets in CH serve a purely ornamental function.


    Whoever he is, why does he have to do it at 5am?

    Because the first prayer is supposed to be conducted at dawn. A mullah takes a white and a black camel hair and places them in his palm. The moment he can tell the difference between them (the color of each) then that is sunrise. I went to a police academy in the US and no one there was willing to define sunrise or sunset, but I sure remembered the Islamic definition of sunrise from my earlier years living in Iran and Saudi (among other countries).

    The bottom line in Switzerland is that a Sikh temple was built in a small out of the way town (Langenthal) and the muslim community’s response was to build a larger mosque with much taller minarets. And the voters of Switzerland chose to respond to this dick waving contest with a ban on minarets.

    What the Swiss did NOT do was to ban other religions. After all, Sikhs make good neighbors.

  • Laird

    “To the extent that Swiss people value living their own individual lives with a large measure of freedom, then what they are doing IS undermining the future viability of their own culture.”

    That may be true, mike, but basically what you’re saying is that they’ve lost either way. Forget about the “future”; acceding to the relentless march of Islam amounts to “undermining the viability of their own culture” in the short term. The Swiss approach at least has the virtue of delaying the (what you apparently believe is inevitable) triumph of that medieval idology. It may not be a perfect solution (what human action is?), and it may not satisfy strict libertarian doctrine, but it seems to be the best available option for a people frustrated by their own government’s refusal to do anything else to repel this menace.

    Succeed in your quest to “reduce the scope of the state” (a goal with which we here are all in accord) and we can then reconsider this relatively minor interference with property rights. But not before the arrival of that halcyon day. Because if you try to do them in reverse order the former will never happen.

  • Europe’s been doing this awful bullshit for millennia, with Jews in the role of the demonized but powerless religious minority. The 1935 versions of Laird and du Toit would have been waving The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, calling for ein Volk.

  • Hey, Tangurena – if the chappie picking up the camel hairs can see well enough to pick up a black one and a white one, he already sees well enough for it to have already been dawn before he picked them up and…and…it is starting to seem recursive. Can’t they use atomic clocks or something? Is this the middle ages?? Do camel hair examiners in the US and canada have to import camel hair for this daily routine? And what if there is a flea or something….if you see the flea on the camel hair first, is it pre-dawn?
    I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but this is a religion that would push me there if I didn’t have alternatives.

  • “The Swiss approach at least has the virtue of delaying the (what you apparently believe is inevitable) triumph of that medieval idology.”

    I’m far less worried about Islam than I am about the decay of liberalism. In other words I am less concerned with the symptoms than with the underlying disease. Addressing the threat of Islam adequately requires – at some point – some method(s) of hamstringing the predatory predilections of the democratic state. I can’t see any way of getting around this.

  • indigomyth

    Some people here (Gabriel, Lee) are talking about “defending Swiss culture”.

    I have to say, if your culture is one of circumscribed individual liberty and property rights, on the basis of community values, and what the majority wants, then your culture is not worth preserving.

  • This certainly is a knotty problem, and I believe that is exactly why muslims are the primary catspaws used by the enemy class. It ties everyone up in knots, not just libertarians.
    I don’t like banning things, and as was said above, the true liberal solution would be a phallic-amplified-symbol arms race, but -even if the state were to permit such a thing- who would be prepared to live with 1000-foot golden phalluses on their doorstep to the extent of paying for them? These things cost money.

    Points raised concerning the illiberal nature of islam are also valid. At some point even a putative libertarian society is going to have to deal with incoming individuals who wish to restrict the freedoms of the citizenry. How to deal with this without resorting to big-state solutions i’m not sure.

  • bradley13

    “in Switzerland the principle of private property has been rejected”

    Oh, come now. Almost every community in the Western world has building code: what you can build, where you can build it, how tall it can be, what it can look like, etc. It may be unusual to have such restrictions at a national level, but it really is no different.

    The motivations behind the initiative, and the discussions it has initiated, are much more interesting that the restriction itself.

  • jdm

    Europe’s been doing this awful bullshit for millennia, with Jews in the role of the demonized but powerless religious minority. The 1935 versions of Laird and du Toit would have been waving The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, calling for ein Volk.

    Ahh, I was curious what a troll would write on this topic. I was otherwise so impressed with the quality of comments.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Libertarianism differs from the dominant creed because it thinks that healthcare isn’t a right and right to bear arms is, but it is exactly the same in having no place for the interests of either the past or the future, or even a vocabulary for expressing what that might mean.

    That is incorrect. Rather a lot of libertarians – myself included – learn much from history and moreover, want to create a freer society not just for ourselves, but because a freer society is the sort of place we would want our descendants to enjoy long after we are dead. There is, in fact, as much concern for the morrow as among other creeds. It is a canard to suggest that we only think for the here and now.

  • The Swiss approach at least has the virtue of delaying the (what you apparently believe is inevitable) triumph of that medieval idology.

    Huh? The Swiss approach has the virtue of delaying the building of minarets.

    Meanwhile, its vices include, but are not limited to, the following:

    (1) It establishes petty discrimination expressed through building codes as a founding principle of the Swiss republic (remember, this is a constitutional change)

    (2) It abuses constitutional law for the purpose of making a political statement of dubious efficacy.

    (3) It punishes what is one of Europe’s best-integrated and least-threatening muslim populations on the basis of integration problems in other countries

    (4) It further pollutes the integrity of Swiss property rights in particular and constitutional protections in general by establishing religious affiliation as a legitimate condition for the applicability of law

    (5) It undermines Switzerland’s claim to guarantee religious freedom (which it does claim)

    (6) It signals cultural weakness by codifying the fact that minarets are perceived as threatening. If building minarets in Switzerland wasn’t a symbol of encroaching muslim power before, it certainly will be from now on.

    (7) It has the potential to radicalize a mostly non-radicalized minority

    It may not be a perfect solution (what human action is?),

    It is not even a solution. What do you honestly think it is going to accomplish – aside from possibly creating – in the Obama sense – some jobs for building inspectors?

    and it may not satisfy strict libertarian doctrine,

    It doesn’t satisfy ANY level of libertarian doctrine. No one who favors arbitrary application of laws on the basis of people’s ill-defined feelings about a citizen’s religion is a credible libertarian. The Labour and Tory bzw. Democrat and Republican parties already do a pretty good job representing this philosophy. Market’s saturated here – no point competing on this product line.

    but it seems to be the best available option for a people frustrated by their own government’s refusal to do anything else to repel this menace.

    Really? The “best available option” is banning minarets? Out of all possible tactics, taking into account all foreseeable consequences and weighing these against the tangible benefits we expect to receive, this is the choice of choices? You heard it here first, folks.

  • “Oh, come now. Almost every community in the Western world has building code: what you can build, where you can build it, how tall it can be, what it can look like, etc.”

    So? You merely underscore my claim. Fidelity of legal and political judgements to the principle of private property is a value that neither you or I can reasonably expect other people in the west to necessarily understand let alone act in accordance with. What is noteworthy in respect of this case is that, unlike top-down, state-imposed building codes that violate the principle of private property and which the Swiss voters may or may not have wanted when voting, here the Swiss people have taken it upon themselves – in spite of the protest of their own government even! – to demonstrate how little the principle of private property means to them next to making a stand against Islamic immigration.

    “The motivations behind the initiative, and the discussions it has initiated, are much more interesting that the restriction itself.”

    What motivated the Swiss to hold this referendum may be more interesting to you, but I regard this as largely insignificant next to the actual deed itself. They have stood up and proclaimed loudly to the whole world – and on purpose mind you – that an aesthetic “threat” to their sense of national security weighs more heavily in their hands than does adherence to a political principle which is essential to their liberty.

  • Joshua,

    Some replies and further thoughts on your points above:

    (1) It establishes petty discrimination expressed through building codes as a founding principle of the Swiss republic (remember, this is a constitutional change)

    No, it extends it. See Gabriel’s point above about the existing prohibition on Kosher slaughter methods. I have no idea whether or not that also applies to Halal methods.

    (2) It abuses constitutional law for the purpose of making a political statement of dubious efficacy.

    Now that is nonsense. How can it be an ‘abuse’? And all law changes arise from political statements or views.

    (3) It punishes what is one of Europe’s best-integrated and least-threatening muslim populations on the basis of integration problems in other countries

    Yes, I agree with that although I don’t think that Muslims are being ‘punished’ as such.

    (4) It further pollutes the integrity of Swiss property rights in particular and constitutional protections in general by establishing religious affiliation as a legitimate condition for the applicability of law

    Hmm, no I think that is rather overwraught.

    (5) It undermines Switzerland’s claim to guarantee religious freedom (which it does claim)

    Well, if it was a law forbidding the practice of Islam you would be right.

    (6) It signals cultural weakness by codifying the fact that minarets are perceived as threatening. If building minarets in Switzerland wasn’t a symbol of encroaching muslim power before, it certainly will be from now on.

    Plenty of people will argue the opposite and equal force. And, unless the Swiss Supreme Court overturns the referendum result, there will be no minarets from now on.

    (7) It has the potential to radicalize a mostly non-radicalized minority

    Why is that? Care to explain. Have Swiss Jews been ‘radicalized’ by the ban on kosher slaughter? If not, why not?

  • Sunfish

    Darthlaurel:

    Hey, Tangurena – if the chappie picking up the camel hairs can see well enough to pick up a black one and a white one, he already sees well enough for it to have already been dawn before he picked them up and…and…it is starting to seem recursive. Can’t they use atomic clocks or something? Is this the middle ages?? Do camel hair examiners in the US and canada have to import camel hair for this daily routine? And what if there is a flea or something….if you see the flea on the camel hair first, is it pre-dawn?

    They can’t use atomic clocks. Neither atomic clocks nor that big office park in Boulder that has them existed when Mohammed was running around molesting children and livestock.

    Neither did wristwatches, so the Saudi princes who wear Rolexes are all committing blasphemy and should be put to the sword.

    And while we’re at it, if camel hairs are the test of sunrise, then does sunrise not happen on cloudy days in Muslim countries? What about low-level clouds leading to plenty of light on top of the minaret but not so much at ground level?

    Tangurena

    I went to a police academy in the US and no one there was willing to define sunrise or sunset

    I’m going to regret this…when and where?

  • Laird

    “Out of all possible tactics, taking into account all foreseeable consequences and weighing these against the tangible benefits we expect to receive, this is the choice of choices?”

    For the man on the street, with no discernable political power and frustrated by the apparent indifference of the political elites to his fears (legitimate fears, based on the evidence throughout the rest of Europe), do you really think there was any other option? His opinion on the Muslim invasion has not been sought, and the referendum on minarets was the only means on offer by which he could express his frustration. You are correct, though, that this is not a “solution” to anything; that was a poor choice of word on my part. What it is, is a cry of frustration to the political class. In a better world I would join you in opposing this ban, but given the world as it is this seems a very mild expression of protest. The question is, will anyone be listening?

    I won’t respond to each of your listed points, but I will say that in general I think your objections are wildly overblown. This is no interference with religious freedom, merely a prohibition on the construction of ugly, noisy towers which aren’t essential to the practice of Islam. It is no more intrusive than any zoning ordinance.

  • Thaddeus –

    Regarding your points:

    (1) (On establishing petty discrimination as a founding principle of the Swiss Republic) OK, so it extends it. But this only takes the discussion back a step. Do you agree with the ban on kosher slaughter methods? Because to me it sounds petty, discriminatory and incompatible with the kind of society libertarians want. In the same way that the ban on minarets does.

    (2) (On the abuse of constitutional law) OH, come now. Do I really need to explain the advantages of having levels of law and reserving only foundational issues for the constitutional level?

    (3) (On whether muslims are being punished) If a particular aspect of your culture were forbidden without any real rational reason given for it, I imagine you would feel punished, even if that wasn’t the express intent of the statute. And you would be right to, even if that wasn’t the express intent of the statute, because any arbitrary – in the sense of “unfair and unexplained” – shrinking of your rights and privileges is a valid reason to get angry.

    (4) (On property rights) How is it possibly overwraught to say – on a libertarian site, of all places – that arbitrary restrictions on property rights are a pollution of those rights? If you understand how cosmetic bans on certain kinds of handguns are a danger to the right to bear arms, it should be easy to complete the analogy.

    (5) (On undermining Switzerland’s claims to protect religious freedoms) Banning a centuries-established means of religious expression that causes no measurable or overt harm is very definitely a restriction of one’s religious freedom.

    (6) (On cultural weakness) Of course there will be minarets in Swizterland someday. Not every Swiss citizen voted for this ban, and I would say it is a matter of time before it is overturned. In fact, I would give it 10 years tops. And when it is overturned, it will be seen as a muslim victory.

    (7) (On why Jews are not radicalized by the ban on kosher slaughter) Obviously a deeper topic. Every religion has its buttons – so, for example, Jews regularly blew up British military installations back when Britain was occupying Palestine. Just as Christians – as recently as 10 years ago – regularly bombed subways in London for national identity issues tied up in religious concerns. I’m guessing the ban on kosher slaughter is old and accepted as routine by Swiss Jews at this point. A similar ban in another country with a different group of Jews at a different time in history would likely have different effects.

  • Joshua,

    1. Whether I ‘agree’ with these things is irrelevant but, what kind of society is it that ‘libertarians want’? Do you, in fact mean the kind of society that YOU want. Seems to me like a case of the Great Libertarian Conceit, i.e. “in a free world, everyone will agree with me and act accordingly”.

    Okay, here’s another scenario in a libertarian world: the majority of Swiss people decide not just to ban minarets but raise them to the ground and then expel all their Muslim citizens at bayonet-point. What are you going to DO about it? Send in the Marines? To do what and by whose authority?

    2. Maybe you are referring to the US Constitution but not the Swiss one. What if this is constitutional in Switzerland? Who are you to impose your views on them?

    3. ‘Real’ and ‘rational’ are not the same things. And what has ‘rational’ got to do with anything? Don’t tell me that, in a free world, people will only be permitted to act ‘rationally’? How will you stop them if they don’t.

    4. In a world where property rights are, as a matter of fact, fettered by planning or zoning laws this is just one trivial addition and not, per se, anything to get worked up about. By the same token, anti-discrimination laws means that the anti-Muslim Swiss who do not want Muslims in their country are not permitted to say so, leaving no other avenues open to them to express their views.

    5. It is not a law against Muslim worship but a means of expression of that worship. In the middle ages, Christians would flog themselves semi-naked in public. I doub very much if they could do so today (at least in Brtain) without falling foul of the Public Order Acts.

    6. Well, the ban could be overturned quite quickly by the Swiss Supreme Court. So you’d better hope that the Swiss state rides to the rescue here.

    7. Oh dear, Joshua – weasely equivalence tropes will not do. And which Christians put bombs on the subway in London? Do you mean the Provisonal IRA? Well, to quibble, they never actually bombed the underground but, in any event, their actions were driven by Irish nationalism not Christianity (and you know it).

    Yes, it is a ‘deeper’ subject isn’t it.

  • indigomyth

    Joshua,

    //Do you agree with the ban on kosher slaughter methods?//

    I believe that animals have the right not to be treated cruelly. They do not have a right to liberty, life or property. But they do have the right not to excessive levels of pain.

    I do not know how that fits into the scheme of libertarian ethics.

    N.B. This does not mean I am opposed to hunting, or shooting, or fishing. However, there is such things as wilful cruelty to animals that I do think should be banned by the state. I don’t know how other libertarians feel about this.

  • indigomyth

    Laird,

    //In a better world I would join you in opposing this ban, but given the world as it is this seems a very mild expression of protest. The question is, will anyone be listening?//

    Perhaps if there was slightly less state sponsorship of Islam, a lot less pressure to make blasphemy against Islam, and a genuine impression of seeing justice done, then perhaps people would be more inclined to criticise a ban on minarets?

    Even so, this ban on private property is still unacceptable, though it may be “understandable”, in the sense that one can comprehend the reasoning behind it.

  • Even so, this ban on private property is still unacceptable, though it may be “understandable”, in the sense that one can comprehend the reasoning behind it.

    This is a very good remark, indigomyth, as it can possibly remove much mutual misunderstanding between various participants here.

  • Gabriel:

    This seems a lot better than Alisa’s soliution of leeting all and sundry in and then expelling or imprisoning those who turn out to be “extremists”.

    I suggested no such “solution”, because there is no way I would have let them in in the first place. But that is hindsight. Many years ago, when Europeans were stupid enough to let them in, I was just as stupid, because I knew next to nothing about Islam. So now the milk is spilled and they are in, and they are a threat – what do you do?

  • indigomyth: I heard it claimed that with kosher slaughter methods the animals suffer less, but I could be wrong.

    Gabriel, I’m curious: how old is this kosher ban?

  • wh00ps:

    Points raised concerning the illiberal nature of islam are also valid. At some point even a putative libertarian society is going to have to deal with incoming individuals who wish to restrict the freedoms of the citizenry. How to deal with this without resorting to big-state solutions i’m not sure.

    If it weren’t for the big state (AKA the welfare state), this problem itself wouldn’t have existed at all, or at least would have been much less acute.

  • Richard Garner

    Lots of people seem to be weirdly pretending that this is about building codes, or noise pollution. It is not. No new law is required to prevent people building minarets from breaching building codes, or from creating noise pollution. As it stands, the claim that building a minaret violates rights by marring the skyline is only plausible if somebody owns the skyline. Even then, if the minaret builder acquires said owner’s permission, there would be no rights violation, yet the building would still be illegal.

    No constitutional ammendment has been proposed to prohibit building skyscrapers, or churches. Both of these impinge on the skyline. Churches righ bells, which is noise pollution.

    No, this is state enforcement of mob rule, itself stoked up by scaremongering: Switzerland is not going to be taken over by Moslems if the Swiss don’t ban minarets. 80% of the population is Christian of some denomination. Only 4% are moslem. The idea of an Islamic take over is ridiculous beyond belief, and yet it is exactly this fear that is being used to justify curtailments of liberty.

  • TT:

    Whether I ‘agree’ with these things is irrelevant but, what kind of society is it that ‘libertarians want’? Do you, in fact mean the kind of society that YOU want. Seems to me like a case of the Great Libertarian Conceit, i.e. “in a free world, everyone will agree with me and act accordingly”.

    I couldn’t care less about libertarianism or any other ism. Personally, I would ideally like to live in a world (although I’d settle for a country the size of NJ) without building regulations. But, if I had to live with building regulations, personally I would prefer they were applied equally, regardless of religion or any other collective distinction.

    Personally, I would ideally like to live in a place where people who are a threat to my security are not deliberately let in. But, if it so happened that for whatever reason they were let in, I would prefer that it would be the threatening individuals who are dealt with, not their architectural self-expression.

    I would also like to live in a place where the majority does not get to decide anything, and everything is decided on the basis of mutual agreements.

    Okay, here’s another scenario in a libertarian world: the majority of Swiss people decide not just to ban minarets but raise them to the ground and then expel all their Muslim citizens at bayonet-point. What are you going to DO about it? Send in the Marines? To do what and by whose authority?

    If I were a gazillionaire and could hire enough marines (or could raise enough money from like-minded folks, or find marines who would volunteer), I might have sent them to Switzerland to sort things out. Or I could have decided that I have better uses for my money and that both the Swiss and the local Muslims should be made to sleep in the bed they both made. Does that make sense?

  • The Ambling Dutchman

    If, as Pa Annoyed so eloquently states, every Libertarian member of a Libertarian society is armed and willing to defend the Libertarian principles, then freedom of speech will be safeguarded, because a ban on freedom of speech will not be tolerated by a sufficiently strong force in society.

    But, by the same token, a society within a society that forms a threat to Libertarian principles (not to free speech at first) will be expunged because it needs to be expunged. If it gains momentum with the masses (for whatever reason; good marketing, bad reasoning, (but I repeat myself)), the libertarian ideals can be removed because enough people think they’re not worth defending.

    I don’t want to put words in Alisa’s writing, but I have a feeling that this is part of the fear of letting go of principles in favour of pragmatism. This, of course, works both ways and creates the dilemma or the paradox.

    If you are authoritarian, you can create a society completely consistent with your principles, because you just increase the force on the population that keeps the society authoritarian.

    However, if you’re a libertarian, you cannot create a society that is consistent with your principles, unless you have sufficient force and commitment to these principles in your society to safeguard these principles *and* impose them on those who don’t believe in them.

    Hence the paradox; the enemies of a libertarian society are many, and they consist of those on the outside who would replace it with something else, but the more insidious enemies are those who live in this society and don’t appreciate it enough to defend it vigorously (I would argue; most of the population), and the worst enemies are those who would take a pragmatic approach and take actions (by force, possible using a first strike against threats) to protect their society. However, if we accept that we have a non-defender group, then we need the last group, otherwise the libertarian society cannot be adequately protected.

    Not really a “live and let live” scenario.

    You can’t just depend on free speech and non-intrusive actions if you lack the force of arms to stop those who would silence and stop you, and I have a feeling that most people don’t care enough about the founding principles of a society to protect these (this has been proven in the UK and in the US in recent years).

    Is that what it comes down to? A Libertarian society can only survive if it’s willing and diligent to root out non-libertarian points of view? Because the best way to do that is to create a state controlled public school system so you can start the education process at a young age and bolster it with a Ministry of Truth to make sure that all the population understands what is at stake.

    Hang on…

    Damn pragmatism…

    –GJ–

  • Thaddeus –

    (1) Whether you agree with these things is not only not irrelevant, it is the whole of the content of the discussion. As far as I can tell, no one is arguing about whether the Swiss in particular can legally do this (they can), it’s whether it is in general a good idea to do it and – as a parallel discussion – what the libertarian position on it is.

    (2) I am referring to neither the US nor the Swiss constitutions, but the general motivation for having a constitution in the first place. If you blur the distinction between the kinds of laws that belong in a foundational document that those that are mere statutes passed with the framework outlined in that document, you undermine the point of having a constitution at all – no matter what country you’re in.

    (3) I have never in my life advocated prohibiting people from being irrational on their own time. I’m as opposed to smoking bans as the next guy. I am opposed to people imposing their irrationality on others through the arm of law, which is what’s going on in Switzerland.

    (4) I am opposed to anti-discrimination laws. If the Swiss majority wanted to fire a shot across the bows of their pols, why didn’t they just repeal these laws instead of doing something so inane as banning minarets? Kindly make the case already – rather than merely asserting it – that this was the “only available option” because it’s hugely counterintuitive that that could be the case.

    (5) Since few, if any, Christians these days want to publicly flog themselves, your analogy is pretty flimsy. A more appropriate analogy would be, say, a hypothetical ban on eating communion wafers during mass. Or on putting crosses on steeples. IN fact, there are countries in the middle east where public displays of crosses on buildings are, in fact, illegal, and we all recognize this as an inappropriate use of government power. One of the reasons I think this is a bad law is precisely because I disapprove of the kinds of societies that routinely do these things. Anyway, I think public flogging of oneself for religious purposes should be legal, so I don’t really see the point of even the bad analogy you offered.

    (6) No comment on the Swiss Supreme Court – though in a US context I would hope our own Supreme Court would overturn such a law.

    (7) When the point of your question is to try to get me to admit that there’s something virulent about Islam in particular to a degree not present in other religions, the equivalence is not only not weasely, it’s the appropriate counterargument. Exactly all major religions have gone through bloody phases, and yes that includes Christianity. The cause of muslim execptionalism today is not Islam itself (all religions are vague fantasies that can be freely interpreted as convenient) but the low level of civilization and the general cultural climate in certain (by no means all) muslim countries. There are aggressive muslim subcultures living in Europe, and they are a public problem in some countries, and finding a way to reverse the violent trend is generally a good idea. But if we insist that our police officers follow due process in arresting known murderers and gangsters – which we do with good reason – and if we sometimes tolerate known murders going free for procedural reasons for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the legal system – which we do with good reason – then it doesn’t seem like it should be too difficult a concept to grasp that banning minarets just because you don’t like them with some hems and haws and really murky explanations about how some people who vaguely resemble the people who built the minarets in this country cause problems in other countries is a misuse of the legal framework. Banning silk suits will not eliminate the mafia, but it WILL make criminals out of some who don’t happen to be G-men. Punish criminals AFTER they’re convicted of having violated someone’s rights. People who violate no one’s rights – and how is building a tower and calling it a “minaret” a violation of anyone’s rights? – should be left well alone.

    This topic is Samizdata’s blindspot. It’s really interesting to me how quickly otherwise dedicated libertarians in the comments section on their blog are willing to throw out their party line as soon as someone says “muslim.”

  • Dutchman: this isn’t nearly as complicated, and there is no paradox – the reality is much more un-pretty than that: we live in a physical world that is not safe by design: it is full of predators, some worse than others, and we will never be able to eradicate them all, no matter how well-armed we are. Now more bad news: there will never be a libertarian society. The best we can hope for is to bring the current society as close to the ideal as possible, and keep it from slipping back for as long as we can (and it will slip back, and then forth again). How much is possible? I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter. Life is constant struggle, and no one can predict the future. You just have to keep working and fighting, trying to have as much fun as you can along the way. See? Told you it’s simple:-)

  • Paul Marks

    What is Islam?

    Is not a Muslim someone who tries to follow the life and teachings of Mohammed (Muhammed or Mahomet)?

    If Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes (and others) are correct about the life of Mohammed and the nature of his teachings then Islam is a mortal threat – and Minarets are a sign of the evil intentions of those who have invaded Switzerland.

    If they are wrong then there is no mortal threat or evil intentions – indeed no invasion.

    This is a great debate of our time.

    Saying “we must agree to disagree” or talking of “pluralistic tolerance” simply will not do.

    Either people like Spencer and Pipes must be refuted, or what they say must be acepted – and acted upon.

    As for the specific Swiss vote.

    If every day the government ministers, the “mainstream” media, the “education system”, and even other governments (all over Europe and beyond) declared that “you must not vote yes”, “if you vote to ban Minarets you are a ………”

    Well then any independent minded people would be tempted to defy the “great and the good” (i.e. the international ruling elite).

  • It’s really interesting to me how quickly otherwise dedicated libertarians in the comments section on their blog are willing to throw out their party line as soon as someone says “muslim.”

    Good for them, even if I disagree. Screw party lines – that’s why I hate labels.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course a strong culture would have no need to ban Minarets or go in for other defensive moves.

    In a strong culture incomming Muslims would be converted to Christianity.

    The fact that Western government and “liberal” Christians are actively hostile to such conversion (even of Muslims born in the West) shows how weak the West has become.

    The decline and fall of the West is something that is independent of the rise of Islam – in many ways the Muslims are simply expanding into a vacuum, which is all the “modern”, “secular” West is.

  • Paul:

    Well then any independent minded people would be tempted to defy the “great and the good” (i.e. the international ruling elite).

    Well, then they are not independent-minded, are they they are being manipulated through self-inflicted reverse psychology. Kind of like the stupid teenager who starves herself, to spite her parents who tell her that she must eat. A truly independent-minded person does what he thinks is right, regardless of what others do or don’t do.

  • Alisa,

    I would also like to live in a place where the majority does not get to decide anything, and everything is decided on the basis of mutual agreements.

    In the absence of the modern nation state, there is not going to be just nothing. You can argue that people will, thereafter, just live as individuals interacting voluntarily with each other in peace but you have ignore just about the whole of human history in order to arrive at that felicitous conclusion.

    I think that people will organise into communities as they have always done and those communities will live according to all sorts of laws that will be generally agreed upon according to the norms and culture and that community. And, of course, those laws will change and mutate.

    You cannot tell me people that they are free and, in the next breath, that they must live according to YOUR principles.

    Being a libertarian means accepting things in the world that you don’t like and don’t agree with.

    Oh and by the by, what if the ‘crude’ majority decides to abolish Income Tax?

  • Paul Marks

    On “party lines” are the definition of libertarian then I am not one.

    After all (as Dr Gabb has helpfully pointed out) I have never been interested in incest and child sex.

    But to keep on the topic of struggles against “armed doctrines” (as Burke would describe international movements that are a threat to Western civilization).

    I would have supported government help for the Dutch against Philip II of Spain.

    I would have supported government action against the efforts of Louis XIV to control all of Europe.

    And the above two examples do not even fully fill Burke’s definition of an armed doctrine (well Philip II’s Spain might be considered a mutant form of the Roman Catholic faith where the King has replaced the Pope, but it is still international – and Louis XIV raised his personal power to the level of an international ideology – the cult of the Sun King which had supporters in every nation in Europe).

    I would also have supported the struggle against the French Revolutionaries (which I think Mises misunderstood).

    And I certainly supported the struggle against the Nazis and against the Marxists – and I still do (including Vietnam).

    So according to a Rothbardian I am no libertarian at all – in fact I am an Imperialist space alien.

    On the other hand I did not support the Iraq war (not going in 2003 – although, of course, once the army was committed I prayed for their victory) and I have no positive thoughts about the Afghan operation either.

    Does that make me “soft on Muslims”?

  • TT, you missed the word ‘ideally’ – and I used it at least twice!:-) You also missed my reply to Dutchman at 8:51pm.

  • And I missed this:

    You cannot tell me people that they are free and, in the next breath, that they must live according to YOUR principles.

    Where did I say that others must live according to MY principles? All I can hope for is to seek out those who already agree to my principles or are likely to be peacefully persuaded, and enter into mutual agreements with them, forming exclusive communities together, commenting on each others blogs – you get the picture.

  • Joshua,

    1. I don’t feel that my point has been addressed, so I will just let it stand.

    2. But you are basing your demand on the US Model. Neither you or I can dictate to people what should or should not have in their constitutions in a free world. Don’t like it? Don’t live there.

    3. If we lived in a free world then things may be different but we don’t. In the context of the world we will live in what the Swiss have done is quite legitimate (which is not the same as saying it is fashionable, popular or principled).

    4. Because you and I and they know full well that they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of repealing those laws.

    5. Well then maybe only a minority of muslims in Switzerland attend mosques and maybe they don’t give a damn. I don’t know of course but maybe there are some Christians who would like to flog themselves publicy. The point stands.

    6. Why should they. If the US Supreme Court won’t overturn things like asset forfeiture, eminent domain or hate speech laws, then why should they overturn this?

    Oh and, in a libertarian world, who is going to enforce the writ of the Supreme Court?

    7. There is no ‘party line’ at Samizdata but even if there were then I assure you that it would not get jettisoned at the mention of Muslims or Islam.

    In fact, my whole thrust here is not about Islam at all. It as about the nature of a world where there is a market of different jurisdictions and laws and the illegitimacy of demanding that those laws conform to any particular model.

    And, yes, I would be saying exactly the same thing if the Swiss had decided, by majority vote, to demolish every Church in the country.

  • In fact, my whole thrust here is not about Islam at all. It as about the nature of a world where there is a market of different jurisdictions and laws and the illegitimacy of demanding that those laws conform to any particular model.

    It’s not illegitimacy, but rather impracticality.

  • The Ambling Dutchman

    Alisa:

    The best we can hope for is to bring the current society as close to the ideal as possible, and keep it from slipping back for as long as we can

    Ha… very pragmatic. :)

    My musings have helped me understand a bit better some of the inherent inconsistencies of an ideological best case. None of this is enough reason for me to abandon Libertarian principles of freedom from oppression, basically for the very reasons that you offer. As we will not be in an ideological situation and the best we can hope for is to steer our society towards a more enlightened path where we (and our children) would be happier than the alternatives that are being pursued by the authoritarians.

    I’m not diminishing in any way the various opinions that hardcore libertarians and others have given here. I think the ideologically pure have much to offer in making sure that the not so pure (= me) are forced to think on how pragmatic they allow themselves to be without losing sight of the real goals.

    If that makes me a dilettante in their eyes, I will have to find a way to live with that. I just ask them to keep their thoughts flowing.

    Thanks to the moderators for allowing this part of the debate that had, in the end, nothing to do with the original article.

    –GJ–

  • Laird

    “Exactly all major religions have gone through bloody phases, and yes that includes Christianity. The cause of muslim execptionalism today is not Islam itself (all religions are vague fantasies that can be freely interpreted as convenient) but the low level of civilization and the general cultural climate in certain (by no means all) muslim countries. * * * [B]anning minarets just because you don’t like them with some hems and haws and really murky explanations about how some people who vaguely resemble the people who built the minarets in this country cause problems in other countries is a misuse of the legal framework.”

    The historic “bloody phases” of other religions is irrelevant*; we’re not concerned with atrocities committed during the Inquisition five centuries ago or in the Crusades 500 years before that, but with atrocities being committed by Islamic extremists today. And it’s not that the Muslims in Switzerland “vaguely resemble” those in other countries; they are exactly the same. Your unsupported assertion to the contrary notwithstanding, the cause of “muslim exceptionalism” today is precisely Islam itself. It’s hard-coded in.

    This seems to be the source of our difference: you don’t see Islam posing the same existential threat that I do. I’m not sure there’s a way past that.

    * And I’m not sure that your statement is even true. Did Buddists or Taoists go through “bloody phases”?

  • Laird, I absolutely agree with you and see Islam a very serious threat indeed. Only I also see our own homegrown mob rule (whether by direct democracy or by the proxy of government) as an even more serious threat, not least because it makes us more exposed to extraneous threats like Islam.

  • Sunfish

    You cannot tell me people that they are free and, in the next breath, that they must live according to YOUR principles.

    I think it was more like ‘telling people that they are free, and in the next breath telling them to leave us the hell alone.”

    Oh and by the by, what if the ‘crude’ majority decides to abolish Income Tax?

    What if? That a proposition may or may not get 50%+1 at the polls does not make it right or wrong. A majority vote merely addresses whether or not that proposition will be enforced as law.

    On another comment:

    SCOTUS has not directly ruled on ‘asset forfeiture, yes or no’ because no case framing it in such stark terms has been brought before them. Eminent domain is in the Constitution, even if the facts in Kelo were nothing like what Madison had in mind. And while there are “hate crimes” laws that have passed Constitutional muster, those criminalize motives in underlying crimes. They don’t criminalize speech. If you’re aware of a ‘hate speech’ law on the books anywhere in the US, I’m curious.

  • Nuke Gray

    Alisa, re ‘There will never be a libertarian society’.
    ‘Libertarian’ is a broad label, and is more a direction than a destination. Libertarians believe in less government at all levels, surely? To me, while Switzerland is not perfect, it is a libertarian society compared to Australia, with it’s top-heavy federal system. I don’t like their conscription (and who will they fight these days?), but the gun-ownership principle seems strong. Maybe some Anglos should try to establish an English Canton in Switzerland!

  • Sunfish,

    I bow to your vastly superior knowledge here, so I amend my previous comment accordingly. In the UK you can be prosecuted for ‘hate speech’ under the Public Order Acts.

  • Gabriel

    If, as Pa Annoyed so eloquently states, every Libertarian member of a Libertarian society is armed and willing to defend the Libertarian principles, then freedom of speech will be safeguarded, because a ban on freedom of speech will not be tolerated by a sufficiently strong force in society.

    Yeah, but, y’know, so the hell what? Fortunately, no-one has yet waded in with the “if we all had guns tere would be no problem” argument as if turning your home into Beirut is somehow more ideologically pure than a sensible policy towards Islamic immigration.

    Gabriel, I’m curious: how old is this kosher ban?

    Not terribly edifying stuff, but then not everyone has to be perfect. I have no particular desire to move to Switzerland any time soon, of course, which I suppose is part of the point. (I must say in passing, that I find the animal rights argument against Shechita bizarre to the point of actually being demented, but then I’m not squeamish).

    I’m far less worried about Islam than I am about the decay of liberalism. In other words I am less concerned with the symptoms than with the underlying disease. Addressing the threat of Islam adequately requires – at some point – some method(s) of hamstringing the predatory predilections of the democratic state. I can’t see any way of getting around this.

    Islam is not a “symptom” of anything, let alone your parochial fixations.

    I have to say, if your culture is one of circumscribed individual liberty and property rights, on the basis of community values, and what the majority wants, then your culture is not worth preserving.

    Well, says you. On the whole, if it’s not too Hegelian, I tend to think those cultures that are not worth preserving are those won’t be preserved and, again on the whole, it looks like that won’t include the Swiss.

  • Thaddeus –

    (1) I asked you a direct question about your feelings on Switzerland’s kosher laws, and you dodged it by asking me a question that you well know requires a longer answer than can be given in a blog comment section. It is my point that has not been adequately addressed, not yours.

    (2) Expressing an opinion on what the distinction between constitutional and statutory law is is “dictating?” Honestly. If you think even this kind of a normative statement about the Swiss legal system is “dictating” then one really starts to wonder why you opened this thread at all. If what gets translated from French/German/Italian as “constitution” in these reports is not a foundational document, then it is a mistransation, not an indication that this concept is simply different in Switzerland. “Constitution” means foundational legal writ. If what Switzerland calls a constitution is not a foundational writ, then it is also not a constitution, and we should agree on another term for it.

    (3) I agree that what the Swiss have done is legal within their framework of laws – but affirming this fact is not an interesting discussion, and in any case it isn’t what people here have been discussing. What’s under discussion is precisely whether the law is popular, principled, or ethical. It is popular, but it is not principled, and it is a bad idea for practical reasons as well.

    (4) I do not know that they stand a snowball’s chance in hell of repealing those laws. If they are legally able to ban minarets in the nation’s founding document, then I should think the legal avenue to repeal the hate speech laws or whaever is open to them as well. What you are actually saying is that it wouldn’t have had the same level of support – which is the same thing as saying that the Swiss majority is UNWILLING to repeal the anti-discrimination laws. The option was available to them (i.e. banning minarets is not – as you have twice said without justification – the “only available option”), and they declined to take it. Apparently they prefer petty building code adjustments to actually addressing the issue.

    (5) What point stands? Christians should be allowed to publicly flog themselves so long as they are not hurting anyone else, and Muslims should be allowed to build minarets. Yes, I agree.

    (6) The US Supreme Court should also overturn eminent domain, hate speech, and asset forfeiture laws. The US has problems too. But then, I have never claimed otherwise.

    (7) I apologize for my use of the confusing term “party line.” I should have said “principles.” And I mean that on an individual level – not that Samizdata is some kind of collective where all agree. What I meant was that many individual commenters here who would oppose analogous laws in a heartbeat if they applied to anyone but muslims suddenly find themselves engaging in all kinds of sophistry to justify this one. It is hypocritical.

  • Joshua,

    1. I have no opinion on the anti-kosher laws at all, per se. Furthermore, I believe Norway has similar laws. Not much fuss about them so why the outrage about this?

    2. Maybe we should. I took objection to your original use of the term ‘abuse’. How do you know?

    3. The problem is casting principles in iron. If you do then you have to condemn the British state for violently opposing German attempts to ‘emigrate’ here in 1940.

    4. I have no idea what level of support it would have. But, I do believe that this law WAS specifically aimed at Islam rather than all minorities so maybe it won’t.

    5. Yes, yes, yes. We both agree that Christians should be able to flog themselves semi-naked. My point was that modern UK law very likely prohibits this expression of religious faith. Who cares? Nobody.

    6. Yes, it should. But if the Swiss Supreme Court overturns this referendum result and we applaud it for doing so, then are we not admitting that we sometimes rely on the big, bad state to curb the ‘unprincipled’ instincts of the public?

    7. No problem, it was not an admonishment. However, as I said above, my position would be identical if the the Swiss had voted to ban church spires.

  • Kim du Toit

    “The 1935 versions of Laird and du Toit would have been waving The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, calling for ein Volk.”

    LOL. I’ve never confused race with culture. Yeah, I’m a cultural conservative, especially when I see that Western culture has given the world concepts like democracy, freedom, the arts, and philosophy (yea, even unto libertarianism).

    The culture of the minarets has given us… nothing, except violence and intolerance. Screw them and their pointy little towers.

  • RAB

    Point of information.
    Kosher and Halal methods of slaughter are pretty much identical. They both involve a religious person, rather than a skilled slaughterhouseman cutting the throat of an animal with one stroke and letting the animal pump it’s blood out on to the floor until it dies.
    It is the abscence of the blood that is the vital part you see.
    I know this because my father was a butcher and slaughterhouse owner.
    There were no Muslims much in the country back in the late 50s when he was operating, but there were Jews, and the practice used to turn him up.
    He may have been a butcher, but he didn’t like to see the suffering of any animal beyond what he could help.

    So he used to let the Rabbi take his swipe, whip him into the back room with the offer of a large whiskey (the rabbi’s didn’t like doing it much either) while his staff finished the poor beast off quickly.
    So no, the Kosher meat probably wasn’t that Kosher after all, but everybody ate it as if it was.

  • guy herbert

    What Paul Lockett said.

    [B]y a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. – Lord Salisbury

    I cannot see any reason at all to object to minarets that does not apply equally to inn-signs or flagpoles with a change in the taste of the objector. A little occasional noise from the call to prayer is no more objectionable than church bells performing the same function.

    Amplified and recorded muezzins are a different matter, and even the Egyptian authorities have just taken action to regulate the racket caused five times a day by volume competition between mosques. Though I don’t necessarily approve of their solution, which is to centralise the whole thing, it shows a sensible principle: even if you personally approve of something, it shouldn’t be done to the extent that an arbitrary neighbour is disturbed in their ordinary activities.

  • Laird: Yes, Buddhists did indeed go through bloody phases (think Tibetan kingdoms way back when), although it can be argued that it was not Buddhism per se, but people who were Buddhists. The same is true, of course, of Christians (and to some extent Jews).

    It’s also worth noting that Buddhism as it is currently would have Prince Siddharta spinning in his grave sufficiently to alleviate the global warming crisis by using him as a dynamo, but that’s neither here nor there.

  • TT:

    1. I have no opinion on the anti-kosher laws at all, per se. Furthermore, I believe Norway has similar laws. Not much fuss about them so why the outrage about this?

    5. My point was that modern UK law very likely prohibits this expression of religious faith. Who cares? Nobody.

    Obviously, no one cares because these particular laws have been passed centuries ago. The one about minarets has been passed this week.

    6. Yes, it should. But if the Swiss Supreme Court overturns this referendum result and we applaud it for doing so, then are we not admitting that we sometimes rely on the big, bad state to curb the ‘unprincipled’ instincts of the public?

    We wouldn’t be applauding the big bad state for taking a principled stance, because it wouldn’t be doing it: it would be the individual judges who did it – so we would be (quite rightly) applauding them.

  • RAB: in any case, it wasn’t compassion to animals that motivated the Swiss law in the 19th century.

  • Second what Alisa says in response to TT’s comment with one addendum: what we would be applauding in the case of the Supreme Court would be an adherence to constitutional principle – that is, for upholding the integrity of the law. I don’t know what the Swiss legal procedures here are, so I would have to do research before knowing whether to applaud this case (ref. above where I say “no comment on the Swiss Supreme Court”). In the case of the US, I would have applauded had the minority view prevailed on Kelo, and I will applaud if any future ruling overturns hate crimes legislation – because my reading of the US Constitution and legal precedent (and I don’t have a degree in law so I concede that I am not an expert here) is that the taking in the Kelo case was unconstitutional, and that while hate crimes legislation is not unconstitutional per se, it is in a constitutional grey area and contrary to the spirit of other legislation. The purpose of a final court of review is in any case to safeguard the integrity of the law. The purpose of the institution is not to impose a particular set of ethical standards on anyone, but rather to make sure that the laws enacted are compatible with the overall framework. It is proper that there should be a process by which the majority can alter this framework as legal norms evolve, but it is equally proper that this process be difficult. If a simple majority vote suffices to change the legal framework, then obviously any guarantee of integrity is pretty weak, and there seems little point in having a constitution or a constitutional review process at all – just leave it all up to the legislature. Obviously I prefer the US-style system to a system like Switzerland’s (though the difference is more in degree than kind in this case), but I won’t lay out the case here as I think that’s the sort of thing that’s too complex for the comments section. My point was simply that to the extent that a nation has a supreme court entrusted with safeguarding the integrity of the law and a constitution that lays out what the founding principles and legal framework are, then it is an abuse of the constitution to include in it things that are neither foundational nor concerned with setting up the framework in which laws are enacted. I stand by that word “abuse,” and if Thaddeus is offended by it then only because he prefers politeness over accuracy. The Swiss have abused their constitution by putting this kind of law in it – “abuse” as in “ab-used” – used to a purpose that subverts the intended purpose. Constitutions DO NOT exist to be whiteboards on which the population can write memos to the political class about transient cultural issues. To put it in a US context, if that will make it less offensive to people like Mr. Tremayne (who brings up a Swiss issue for discussion but objects as meddling in Swiss affairs any opinions expressed that imply they made the wrong call – as though there were no debate amongst the Swiss themselves on similar lines to those being discussed here about how they should vote) – Prohibition (Amendment 18) would be an analogous example of an abuse of the nation’s Constitution.

  • ken

    Some thoughts:

    1) The real freedom is from an establishment of religion hostile to freedom, which is what the minarets are attempting to do there. The Swiss seem to be acting against the enemies of freedom in a minimal but effective way as they did against the Jewish groups, which in many countries have been tied to leftist oppression, and various Christian sects tied to organized crime. The US has a higher tolerance for that sort of thing. Still, in the US you can put a cross on your lawn, but a burning cross to intimidate people is another matter. Also, there is growing hostility there to religious displays that are basically attempts to intimidate or privilege religion, especially when coupled with cries for “Judeo-Christian culture war.” Religions are generally enemies of freedom when they become fanatical or self-serving. The Swiss get that.

    2) The Swiss survived a horrifying religious civil war in the 1800’s. They have no wish to see that sort of thing return, but a few years ago the country was rocked by revelations of a Christian murder cult. They have a habit of crushing religious exceptionalism and fanaticism at the start when possible.

    3) If the Swiss decision is extreme, there are many remedies, from localism to court suits to a new referendum. But at this moment it looks like a disgusted public banning symbol displays to defuse activities of extreme soccer hooligans, except they’re religious soccer hooligans.

    4) The Swiss are also very protective of their national culture. They have very open immigration, but will deny a citizenship application if you don’t eat Swiss Cheese.

    5) Nonetheless, Libertarians in general would prefer the matter be handled via local action, private contracts (which is how e.g. zoning is handled in parts of Texas and much of Florida), courts ruling on specific cases, etc. It might help if Switzerland developed a jury system, and the same goes for the rest of Europe. If Swiss Libertarians think the refrendum unjust, they have a great opportunity to organize for another referendum to develop converts and supporters. After all, 40% of the voters were not crazy about the idea. Those would be positive Libertarian expressions, instead of the poster denunciations of democracy or wondering if Libertarianism can apply in the real world while not lifting a finger to take action.

    6) While Samizadat UK, French, and Nordic readers are at it, before worrying about Swiss decisions, how about disestablishing religion in the UK, Denmark, and other Nordic countries and getting rid of the laws making it a crime to deny the Holocaust or even criticize Judaism? How about the Pope, whose office denounced the referendum in Holier Than Thou tones, allowing religious freedom and democratic elections, let alone a Minaret, in Vatican City? A little Mosque tucked next to St Peters, along with temples of other religions and maybe a meeting hall for atheists, would do wonders for positive symbolism and inspire many people to harmony. How about religious freedom in Israel and Islamic states? Maybe then some of the posters can then criticise the Swiss and worry about their Libertarianism.

  • ken

    Sorry, that’s a right-wing position and common European misperception. Most of the US uses some form of the Swiss system, and extending it to all states is a key issue for many Libertarians.

    In Florida all initiatives become part of the Constitution, and Libertarians there have used them to advance many Libertarian proposals. One group has started a long term project to bring about a Libertarian agenda which has the local Republicans apoplectic.

    A working group in the USLP around Mike Gravel is encouraging discussion of a national initiative.

    The EC could use an initiative process IMHO.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder. At least, it does for me.”

    Does that include the persecution and suppression of non-Moslems in Moslem-majority countries by mob action?

    There are several countries where such actions have overwhelming popular approval.

    Tyranny of the majority is still tyranny. The oppression of blacks in the “Jim Crow”-era U.S. South was maintained by extra-legal intimidation, supported by the white majorities in those states. “Uppity” blacks were suppressed by any whites they confronted, with the threat of lynch law backing up the whites.

    I cannot define any system under which a majority cannot oppress a minority if they want to. The best that can be done is to establish legal and cultural norms which protect the rights of minorities.

    Having said all that, I applaud the result in Switzerland. The construction of minarets is an intrusion into public space and the public at large should have the power to regulate such actions. That is not a libertarian position, but I am not a libertarian. And as a practical matter, I applaud any check to the pretensions of Islam.

  • The culture of the minarets has given us… nothing

    *cough*

    Cleans coffee off the keyboard.

    “Cultural Conservative”?

    As long as it’s your definition of “culture” I assume? Do you have a working definition of “cultural purity” yet?

  • Al As-dair

    Daveon – actually, the culture of the minarets did give us nothing …

    As I understand it, the concept of the numerical zero and the *number* zero came from the culture of the minarets … well, it was passed up into Europe through Iberia from North Africa …

    The culture of minarets also gave us Algebra, Booze, Coffee, Divans, et cetera …

    Sunfish – from way back earlier – minarets are not inherently explosive, true enough … unfortunately, the *words* spread from minarets in this century tend to be explosive or inciting to explosions of violence – and that *is* considered destructive by most of us …

  • Al, you are indeed most wrong. The number ‘zero’ – as indeed all the so-called Arabic numerals – came from India. Hindu India, no less.

    I’ll have to give you points for al-gebr, al-kuhl and coffee… but I will point out that these did exist pre-Islamic times as well, and they also gave us al-hashishim.

  • MlR

    All things being equal, I’m attracted to self-rule wherever possible. Nonetheless, democracy’s little more than a process, as capable of putting out unjust outcomes as any other. Garbage in, garbage out. I support individual rights, not majority rights.

  • RAB

    Well Y’all get theoretical on each others asses all you like, the reality is this…

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6941576.ece

    We are in a War. Get used to it.

  • If we are in a war, RAB, then it’s time to fight the enemy, not their architecture.

  • RAB

    Well Alisa, someone should have told that to Adolf Hitler when he deliberately bombed our historic cities like Bath which had no strategic value whatsoever, with the sole intention of destroying our History and Culture…
    And on the Kosher thing, I have no Idea why the Swiss banned it, that was just my dad’s (and mine) personal take on it, being bloody cruel is all the reason I need not to do something.
    This will be my last word on the subject, I cant chase my bloody tail forever.

  • Laird

    Just to step back for a moment, in my opinion this has been one of the best threads in a long time. A lot of intelligent and thought-provoking posts on both (all?) sides of the issue, occasional interesting digressions, and almost no nastiness or ad hominem attacks. I just wanted to express my appreciation to all involved.

  • indigomyth

    RAB,
    //Well Alisa, someone should have told that to Adolf Hitler when he deliberately bombed our historic cities like Bath which had no strategic value whatsoever, with the sole intention of destroying our History and Culture…//

    It should be noted that in your example, the Swiss would be taking the role of Hitler. It is him that was the one attacking architecture purely for its ideological power. The minarets would be like the buildings of Bath; the minarets aren’t destroying the history and culture of Switzerland – they are merely adding to it.

    I do not think the best argument in favour of a particular policy is to use Hitler as an example. Indeed, the lesson we have to take from Hitler’s attacks on architecture, is that it proved unsuccessful. Hitler also wanted to completely redesign Berlin to reflect the power of the 3rd Reich. We still won. So, it sort of shows that it is a pointless gesture to attack architecture.

  • RAB

    Ok, this is definately my last word on the subject.
    You have missed my point entirely indigo.

    You can have constructive hegemony as well as destructive.That is what the Minarets are all about.Muslims are not prevented from building their places of worship in our lands. Their methods and practice of worship are not banned. But they feel perfectly free to ban our places of worship and practice from their lands.Then they moan that we are being Islamaphobic. No hint of them being Christianaphobic though is there?

    And nobody has blown up the minarets that already exist, not will they. All the Swiss people have said is, enough and no further. Worship as you please but do not stick two fingers up to us any longer and think you can get away with it.

    Now if you follow the link I provided a bit earlier, you will see what nice rational people we are dealing with.
    If they want to play silly buggers, we can too.

  • Vilela

    Does Switzerland really have a substantial number of Muslim citizens? Muslim immigrants, yes, a lot. But citizens?

    I was under the impression that attaining Swiss naturalization was an exceedingly difficult proposition even for wealthy Nordics. Have things changed so much over there?

    (By the way, I’m not arguing that numbers should matter in a question of principle — i.e., that the ban would be fairer if the number of affected Muslim citizen is small. No, I’m just plain curious.)

  • indigomyth

    Rab,
    //If they want to play silly buggers, we can too.//

    Just a quick note, because I do not want to drag this out.

    We are libertarians. We are meant to be better than neo-liberals and conservatives. In short, we do not play silly buggers.

    Oh, we will defend our liberty with violence, when it is genuinely threatened. However, do buildings really do this? And is the motivation of every Muslim that builds these structures to advocate violence? And even were it so, would it make it permissible to infringe on property freedoms?