It's been a while since we last posted an update on the old Bob and Abe Show blog, but that's something I'd like to remedy. I wouldn't bet the farm on us updating every day, but I would like to make this blog a more important part of the entire Bob and Abe Show experience--both yours and ours. Besides all that, a little blogging never hurt anybody in terms of web exposure and maybe pulling in a few eyeballs that could in turn drive traffic to the show, which can be found here.
In the spirit of all that, I wanted to clarify my position on the Swiss minaret controversy. Granted, I made my position pretty clear on Friday's episode, but after receiving an e-mail from a listener I wanted to reiterate a few things and make a couple of new points.
There are an estimated 13,000 Catholics and an estimated 25,000 Jews in Iran. This is in a country of 75,000,000 people. Needless to say, this statistic does not engender in a person the notion that people of non-Muslim belief are particularly welcome there. In Saudi Arabia, there are about 8 million foreign workers that live and work in Saudi Arabia (a country of about 30 million people), and it's a pretty safe bet that about 1 million are Catholic. They are not allowed to practice their faith at all--they may not have a church, they may not wear a crucifix, they may not publicly show their religion in any way. Every citizen of Saudi Arabia must be a Muslim, and conversion from Islam to any other religion is punishable by death.
There are an estimated 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, a country made up of fewer than 8,000,000 people. They are permitted to freely exercise their faith with virtually no interference from the government, with the exception of the recently instituted ban on minarets, which are a feature of only some mosques, and certainly by no means a feature required of the structure.
Muslim immigration into Switzerland, especially from Kosovo, Bosnia, and Turkey, has brought this influx of Muslims. The Swiss seem to have adopted the mindset that the Muslim immigrants should have to conform to certain aspects of Swiss society if they are going to live there. For whatever reason, they believe that the construction of more minarets will have a detrimental impact on their culture and their history. It seems to me that this is their decision to make. They are not infringing upon anyone's basic human rights (legal, innate, supernatural, or otherwise) and they aren't preventing the free exercise of the Muslims' religion.
I gave an example on the show that I would like to flesh out a little bit more. The neighborhood in which I live has a Homeowner's Association that does not allow basketball hoops to be constructed in driveways. This could be construed in (at least) two ways. First, it could be that the addition of basketball hoops, which could be poorly maintained, unsightly, or even an insurance liability for the community, might have some sort of an effect on the property value of all the houses in the neighborhood. Or, it might be said that basketball, which is a sport currently most popular among young urban males, is not the sort of thing the Homeowner's Association wants to make available because of the type of people it might attract to live here, which could also conceivably have a negative effect on property values. The real reason is, of course, the first one, but this will never stop certain individuals from screaming "discrimination." People always see the explanation they most want to see. The only thing being discriminated against in my example is lower property values.
I don't know why each individual that voted to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland did so. Some might be bigots, and believe that their vote is a way to tell Muslims to jsut fuck off already. Some might be really, really into Swiss architecture. If I had to guess, most of them did so because of a certain patriotic love they have for their own culture, their own way of doing things. Can an immigrant really demand absolute free reign, to be allowed to write their own rules in a country that is not their homeland? In reality, Switzerland and much of Europe represents a much more flexible, much less unbending sort of tolerance than any of the cultures of the Islamic world generally stand for. The minaret seems like such a small sacrifice to be asked to pay in return for not having to live in Kosovo or Bosnia anymore.
I'm sure this wouldn't fly in America, and that may be just as well--though it may be because we value Twilight: New Moon more than any sense of our own history, but that's another story for another day--this is not a fight I'd like to see happen in the grand ol' U.S. and A. Religious freedom is a birthright in this country, and an adopted right of those that choose to come here from all over this goofy planet, and I'm all about it. But I do worry that we might let a little political correctness, tolerance, and multi-culturalism get in the way of our overall progress--not just as a nation, but as a species.
Thanks for reading along. It's off to work I go. Certainly hope everybody out there has a great weekend.