Minaret debate

Summary by Dr. Andreas Maurer

What is a Minaret?

Taken from the ‘Encyclopedia of Islam:’ a tower belonging to a mosque from which the muezzin (caller to prayer) summons the people to prayer. The ‘Brill Encyclopedia’ states that the term ‘Minaret’ is used to describe all Islamic towers. They are not only used to call believers to worship but also as look-out or signal towers and as victory columns.

Significance of Minarets

According to A. Hauser (chairman of the Institute for Islamic Studies), a mosque and its proportionately-sized minaret, and the call emitting from it symbolizes the territorial occupation of the area, even though in many places the call to prayer cannot be heard at the present time. A mosque differs from a church in that its function is not only to provide a place to worship but extends beyond that to providing social amenities too. The divide between church and state is not as pronounced as it is here in Switzerland - this clear division is found already in the Christian Bible.

Hisham Maisar, president of the Islamic Federation in Switzerland, says that a minaret represents a place of prayer and insists that minarets are not symbols of radicalization. He adds that extremists have ‘other ideas.’

In conclusion, it can be said that many Muslims are misinformed about the significance of the minaret or tend to play down its importance. History shows that they have greater significance than generally recognized. The majority of Muslims see no necessity for the building of minarets. It is mainly radical Muslims who see in them a broader meaning, for example, that of laying claim to the surrounding area or a calling to missionary activity. Some Muslims are of the opinion that from wherever the minaret is visible that ground belongs to Islam.

Views and comments:

  • Provided that the construction of a minaret complies with the existing building regulations, it should be permitted – we Swiss should not be against this!
  • Switzerland is tolerant towards minority religions and should treat Muslims like-wise.
  • Building regulations should not be waived or altered to accommodate the building of mosques and minarets.
  • Swiss politicians should point out unequal practice in Islamic countries and question unfair situations accordingly.
  • Putting a ban on the building of minarets creates barriers - not bridges to effective communication with Muslims.
  • Banning the construction of Minarets is not conducive to the effective integration of Muslims.
  • Both parties should concentrate on keeping paths of communication open and finding mutually acceptable solutions.

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