Minarets (with micro mosque)

For those of who may not have heard, a referendum passed in Switzerland that banned the construction of minarets on mosques. Because, you know, apparently a minaret poses an existential threat to Western Civilization, while upending a tradition of cosmopolitanism is really what you want to go for. This is all Erik Smit (.eti) and I have to say to that:

LEGO Erik Smit .eti micro mosque

27 comments on “Minarets (with micro mosque)

  1. Ezechielle

    I fully agree with you! I’m sad to see that some people think it is a danger for our society. The only true danger is intolerance and racism…

  2. Catsy

    And here I thought we here in America had the market cornered on brainless, ignorant, pants-wetting hysteria. I guess bigoted cowardice is a common language no matter where you go.

  3. Melfice

    Geert Wilders is also wanting to outlaw future construction of mosques here in the Netherlands.

    If that happens, I’m suggesting we also tear down the churches.
    If a minaret/mosque is a political symbol, then so’s a (western) church.

  4. Globetrotter

    Are you really going to argue the decision made in a democratic process? You may not like it, but you should accept it.
    On a separate note: is it allowed to build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia? Or Iran? Kuwait? Will you present your righteous disgust at this issue?

  5. dipplayer

    Or maybe they should agree to allow minarets in Switzerland when Saudi Arabia allows churches or even Bibles in their country.

    And if intolerance is the danger, then Muslim intolerance of Western freedoms is a real danger.

    And the Swiss people voted for this. It was their democratic choice.

  6. gambort

    Globetrotter> Iran allows churches as does Kuwait. In fact 12% of Kuwaitis are Christian. In a world of wikipedia and the internet your ignorance is unacceptable.

    Globetrotter and dipplayer> Religious freedom is a right in most democratic countries and an important one at that. When a country democratically votes to remove the rights of a minority it takes a step away from true democracy and a step towards autocracy. With regard to religion Switzerland now has more in common with Saudi Arabia than with most democracies. Hardly a positive outcome.

  7. Onkl0r

    I think we need a swiss voice in here… as I don’t think y’all know what you are talking about. I am an agnostic, swiss since birth and I voted AGAINST the ban on minaretts.
    But now as the whole world seems to bash Switzerland and its style of democracy of which I am very proud, I think I need to set some things straight:

    1) Switzerland is a small country, only a little larger than Maryland and then most of the space our country occupies is mountainous (Alps) and unfit for settling, we are densely populated.
    2) Switzerland has 8 million inhabitants, 22% do not have swiss citizenship. Most come here because wages and the standard of living are very high.
    3) Of the 8 Million inhabitants, 400k are muslims which amounts to 5% of the general populace. Most of these Muslims come from Europe (Kosovo, Turkey, Bosnia…) but you can find Muslims from all over the world living in Switzerland. In 1970, there were 16300 Muslims, 1980 / 56600, 1990 / 152000, 2000 / 311000.
    4) Since WW2, Switzerland has held 200 ballots on very important issues. Eg. in the 70’s there was a ballot asking the swiss wheter they want to limit immigration to 18% – this ballot was rejected. In the 90’s, there was a ballot asking wheter we wanted to join the EEA, which was also rejected. In 2002 we were called to cast a ballot on wheter we want to join the UN (Which we at first rejected in 1986) succeded.
    So you see, the swiss are not per se racist or xenophobe. We just have more direct democratic power than you have and thus cast ballots which the political and economical Elites may not want.

    Now, before you start flaming me, remember, I voted AGAINST the ban on minaretts. Also, there are some things you might want to reflect on:

    Switzerland does not ban the building of mosques nor does it ban Muslims from living their religion. The only thing this ballot does is forbid the construction of the little towers on top of the mosques. So it’s not as bad as it may sound at first.
    Swiss women usually cast ballots with a very progressive mindset, holding the xenophobes at bay. This time, that was not to be: Women from left to right voted against minaretts, and I think this sends a very clear signal. Forced marriages, honor killings, female circumcision, girls not allowed to go to camp or swimming lessons with the rest of the class… are all concomitants of the rising number of muslims in Switzerland. As you may know, swiss women had to fight long and hard for their right to cast a vote (1971…) and thus they are very frightened by what they perceive as a threat from Islam.
    Also, analysis of the ballot showed that mostly low income and rural areas voted for the ban. All the major cities in Switzerland said “That’s not a problem” eg. Zurich with only 36% for the ban.

    So, cool down and if you have questions or constructive critisism, be free to contact me.


  8. gambort

    Hi Onkl,

    I see your point but it is somewhat disingenuous to argue that a ban on minarets is not an attack on Islamic religious practise. If the ban included Church steeples then maybe you could dress it up as town planning but it was not. In Australia you occassionally see similar sideways attacks on aboriginal culture or immigrant groups.

    No country is free of xenophobia and no country is free of racism. As a general rule if a country does something at an institutional level that is xenophobic then it will make the news, particularly if the country is usually tolerant. This ban fits the ticket and so Switzerland is in the news. Since other countries like to think that they are super-tolerant they love to read about examples of someone else’s intolerance. I’ve seen some true classics in the UK media w.r.t. Australia.

    The sad truth here, I suspect, is that the media usage of the ultra-nationalists was much more savvy than that of their opponents. As happened here in the 90s with Pauline Hanson you sometimes see the ‘good’ side attack the person while the ‘bad’ side makes persuasive but vacuous arguments. It is a weakness of moderates that they believe that everyone thinks like them.

    Incidentally is there a movement to create a citizens referendum to overturn the ban?


  9. Onkl0r


    There is no movement to create a citizens referendum (It’s unusual to do that right after a ballot has been cast; the winners would cry out that the “will of the people” was not respected. As some have said about the rallies (http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/Tausende-demonstrieren-gegen-MinarettVerbot/story/28066852) to protest this decision.
    The Green and the Social Democratic Party both said they would take it to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) since Switzerland is a signee of the European Convention on Human Rights.
    It’s also possible for all the mosques who wanted to build a minarett to do this, but since you have to go throught all the courts: cantonal, federal and only then the ECtHR this could take 7-8 years before this decision can be overruled.
    This was the main problem with this ballot in the first place. Since it so clearly violates contracts Switzerland has ratified, it should not have been on the ballot in the first place.
    Also, I am anxious to see what happens once the ECtHR decides against the ban… on one hand you have a contract signed by the state of Switzerland, on the other hand you have a democratic cast ballot…

  10. gambort

    ^ Your last point raises the big problem with democracy. It is possible to democratically elect autocracy (eg. Hitler) or to democratically produce legislation which goes against international law. Ultimately I think that there are some aspects of civilisation that should be protected from democracy. Such as human rights.

    Is the referendum voting compulsory for all eligible voters? If not then it’s not really a democracy, merely a popularity contest of a concept.

  11. alldarker

    I will not enter the discussion on the good or bad of the Swiss mosque referendum. However, I would like to express my extreme disappointment with the Brothers-Brick in allowing Thanel to use BB as a platform for his personal viewpoints on this issue.
    I feel that Brothers-Brick should never be the platform for political or religious viewpoints. This can only lead to unnecessary baiting of incendiary comments, flaming and trollling.
    There are enough other fora on the internet for that kind of thing: please keep Brothers-Brick free of this.

    BTW, and more importantly: great micro mosque by Eti! I can’t really tell if it was built in dark red or regular red, though?

  12. gambort

    ^ As has been stated in the past the bloggers here are allowed to express their personal views if they choose. If that disappoints you then you can choose not to read the blog or choose not to read those blog posts that you don’t like. It’s not all that hard.

    On a more personal note I really dislike your attitude. Telling people what they should or should not do in their own space is pretty rude in my mind.

  13. Ezechielle

    alldarker: I think it’s dark red ;)

    Of course we can disagree with the fact that Thanel (or any other blogger) used The Brothers Brick to point his personnal view about a social/political problem, but I think that the main problem comes when people are unable to discuss both in respect of other opinions (we all speak about democracy, don’t we?), and here, I’m pleased to see that everyone can express himself and share is opinon…

    Now I just wanted to answer to some thing I’ve read above.
    Should we truly care about the intolerance and racism in some muslim countries? I hope we (westerners) don’t see democracy as “eye for a eye”. If the gouvernments of thoose countries are unable to overrun the religious problem, we don’t have to follow them. On the other hand, the intolerance continues till one of the “parties” hold his position: I mean, it is pretty hard to say when racism starts and who’s guilty, but if someone try to understand the others, then, “the others” will also act like this, slowly but surely. I think it would be great to start this process…

    Of course, forbid the building of minaret makes not intolerance against muslims, and of course it is a “minor” problem. But when politics are unable to point the true questions, people act like child and fight for minor questions. In this case, the true question is not “can we allow minaret?” but “are we ready to live with muslims and are they ready to accept the fact that they don’t live in an islamic country?”. As long as we’ll be unable to ask true questions, people will be forced to fight for minor problems refering to more important problems, but as we can see, thoose more important problems are always forgotten…

    (I hope my english is clear :p)

  14. alldarker

    @Ezechielle: Thanks, I think you’re right. And your English is clear enough.
    Perhaps I should just let it rest, but re-reading Tim’s comment “Telling people what they should or should not do in their own space is pretty rude in my mind.” regarding me voicing an OPINION, I found laughably ironic considering his condemnation of a decision the Swiss people took for their own country. Perhaps he should take his own advice to heart himself…

  15. Thanel Post author

    Wow, that’s what I get for decorating for Christmas and sleeping. I guess I’ll do this point by point. First, I appreciate gambort moderating in my absence. I’ll jump right on board with saying that the USA does not exactly have a spotless record for international and especially Islamic relations. “Clumsy” would be putting it generously.

    Globetrotter: Notice I included no condemnation of democracy and did not bash the voting process that led to the referendum. All democracies have opposition/minority parties, that’s why they’re in opposition. Dissenting from the conclusions of the democratic process is par for the course. The test of a democracy is how much the winners rub it in the face of the losers, and whether the losers accept the legitimacy of the process and campaign for change through legal means. As far as your last point, religious intolerance within many (though not all) Muslim countries is indeed bad, but it already exists and barring internal regime change it will not change, though I did feature a little vignette back in the summer by Nolnet about the Iranian protest movement. My problem with the Swiss referendum is extreme nationalism becoming accepted in the mainstream in a country with a long tradition of cosmopolitanism.

    dipplayer: Again, no bashing of the process on my part. We all have every right to have opinions about anything we want. We even have the right to express them. I abandoned the “they did something bad so it’s okay for me to do something bad” argument about 20 years ago.

    Onkl0r: I tried to be really careful not to include any generalizations about Switzerland or the Swiss in general. It’s really interesting to hear the Swiss perspective and you did a very good job of fairly representing all the various viewpoints as well as what we in the US call “inside politics”. We have a similar referendum and initiative process in many of our states, including the one where I live. One of my biggest concerns is that Switzerland has such a long positive position as a respected neutral broker in the world, and this may harm that reputation.

    alldarker: As gambort said, we’re not only allowed, but encouraged, to use this as a platform for our opinions, perspectives and interests. I think it’s important to keep TBB a place where anyone who wants can come together to discuss civilly if at all possible. Unfortunately, any blog post like this has the potential to start a flame war, so I did run it by Erik, since I was dragging his creation into it. Indeed it is a great creation by him and I’ve been looking for a good reason to feature it for months.

    Ezechielle: I generally agree with you. I think one of the most important things you mention is that the minaret ban is symbolic. I think symbols are very important. This symbolic referendum says to Swiss Muslims “You people don’t have a place here, keep it to yourself.” That kind of message often encourages radicalization rather than keeping it in check. Same with the possible burkha ban in France.

    Thanks. Play well.

  16. Norro

    Would you feature a vig on Apostacy as practiced in numerous Islamic countries?

    Lives, equality for women, religious freedom, are each more important than minarets. But we care too much about the ‘west’ and too little about the ‘rest’…


  17. gambort

    alldarker> And I was expressing an opinion on your opinion. That should have been clear by the “On a more personal note I find” (italics added). You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. You were disappointed and I found your expression of disappointment rude.

    It is you who was discouraging the expression of opinion. Had you kept to your first paragraph and left off the second I wouldn’t have found it rude. As it is you took it one step further and argued that TBB “should never be the platform for political or religious viewpoints” (your opinion, italics mine) which I read as a statement that we should not allow such things and which I do consider rude (my opinion). I’ll repeat for posterity: you are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine.

    Nathan> Build a publishable one and I’ll be happy to blog it and add some commentary. It’s a LEGO blog with occassional opinion attached to the models we blog, not an opinion blog.

  18. eti


    I would not bash you if you voted in favor. I would just find your opinion a bit scary…

    All things you mention Swiss ladies esp. find scary about islam (honor killings, female circumcision, whatnot) are things that are not directly related to their faiths (minarets are, though) but that occur in cultures that mainly have the islamic relgion. Whether it’s a coincedence or not I do not know.

    And don’t forget that a lot of things ‘we’ (not ‘you and me’ but ‘a lot of people in our countries’) find scary or stupid in the behavior of our islamic migrants are actually things we had 1 or 2 generations ago. Up to the 1960s Dutch swimming pools often had separete men’s and ladies’ days, and schools were often separate too.
    And if you look at Switzerland, in a few cantons women weren’t allowed to vote until the 1980s if I’m not mistaken. I’m not saying that to bash the Swiss but to say that we often are most scared of what is most similar to us. And the islamic culture is so similar to the Christian one.

    What scares me is that so many of us – the Netherlands is no different, according to a poll 47% of us would vote in favor of the ban – are so scared of Muslims. I see Muslims as my fellow citizens, and I look at their relgion in wonder, as I do with Christians, because I adhere neither relgion and would have a hard time seeing Jesus as my saviour or Mohammed as my prophet. But I find it very important that people have all the right to practice whatever religion they wish. And I don’t understand how you can be scared of a complete minority. From fear comes hate and from hate come disasters. It could be that a ban on minarets is the first step towards a ban on mosques, then on the koran, etcetera… I do not want our society to sink that low.

    And of course there are much worse things going on in the world than a ban on minarets, in many countries, muslim or not. But well, that there are a lot of cruel laws in Saudi Arabia or Birma isn’t news, it’s sad facts. But when a law that in my opinion appears to aim at blocking minorities from practicing their religion is voted for over here (okay not my country but still Western Europe), it is something that affects me – and most visitors of this site are westerners, I think.

    Anyway, the reason why I built the mosque is because they’re building it right now next to where I live and I am in awe of its architecture, so that’s why I made a micro version for our micropolis project at Lowlug last September.

    Let’s leave it at the statement that if I was a Swiss architect I would now decide to design a ginormous mosque with four towers that are each a copy of Berne’s hightest church tower. So I could clearly state ‘Hey, they’re not minarets! If these are banned, you have to knock down the church of Berne, too!’

    Oh, and the mosque is dark red, as the real building will be.


  19. Thanel Post author

    Norro: Like gambort, I’d be happy to blog those topics if I found an appriopriate creation, though this will always be primarily a LEGO creation blog rather than an opinion blog. Our political opinions just seep periodically.

    Like Erik said, most Western countries aren’t very many generations removed from the same or similar practices. I grew up as part of a very conservative Christian sect, and in Japan, so I’m all too aware of how close certain cultural practices are around the world.

  20. alldarker

    @gambort: you keep amusing me with your double standards. The second paragraph of my initial post, to which you refer, clearly started with “I feel (…)”, which you conveniently left out. Still, that should have made clear that this too was my opinion. Secondly, I most definitely wasn’t discouraging an expression of opinion: I only felt it was a risky subject for a site like BB, dedicated in the first place to Lego and not to politics. I also pointed out the risk associated: flaming, trolling and incendiary comments between posting.
    Your flames, ‘personal note’ or not, and clear trolling, based on my opinions, proved my initial points so exactly it was almost funny.
    Your closing statement: “Telling people what they should or should not do in their own space is pretty rude in my mind.” was of course irony-icing on the cake, considering the topic being discussed and your previous posts on the subject.
    Anyhow, I had hoped for and expected more dignity from a BB contributer and Lego Ambassador.

  21. gambort

    ^ Yes. You are right. It’s a shame that I felt compelled to flame and troll and I apologise. I will also endeavour to learn how not to exhibit double standards by reading carefully through your well-crafted arguments. I’ll submit my resignation letter to the Ambassadors program today.

  22. Andrew

    To those of you expressing concern over the precedent set by combining politics and LEGO here on The Brothers Brick, I’d like to point you to a long tradition of doing just that:







    If you’d prefer a more bigoted, homophobic, racist, or otherwise reactionary LEGO blog, you are more than welcome to start your own.

  23. gambort

    Thanks Andrew. I held myself back from writing something along those lines as I think that’s your place as editor-in-chief but I agree completely, particularly with your final paragraph.

  24. alldarker

    @ gambort: Ah… sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.
    I’ll be glad to draft that letter for you, by the way.

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