So the Swiss have voted to ban the construction of new minarets, while assuring their Muslim brothers and sisters that this rebuke shouldn't be confused with a ban on the construction of mosques. Doubtless reassuring to a religious minority. And, they hasten to add, it most certainly isn't directed at Islam in particular but at Islam's rather un-Swiss architectural tastes.
It is a pointless and stupid provision (and one which could be overturned, according to Switzerland's justice minister), that avoids and obscures the hot button issues of immigration and integration—and, if anything, hinders the assimilation of the Muslim minority.
This type of response shouldn't come as a shock, as it's of a piece with the European tactic of ignoring problems of integration and religious extremism followed by a spasm of ill-considered populism. In France, it was the headscarf ban. In the the United Kingdom, the occasional attacks against the construction of so-called mega mosques and endless debates about banning radical groups like Hizb-ut-Tarir. In Sweden, a proposal by the integration minister (herself an immigrant) to check all girls for evidence of female genital mutilation. All skirt the issues of why fundamentalist ideas take root, why many Muslim immigrants have cloistered themselves in ghettos (often, this is the fault of government), why the suburbs of Gothenburg, according to this recent report from Norwegian state television, look like Grozny and are full of graffiti informing kids that "those who kill the police will go to paradise."
Tyler Cowen, Daniel Hannan, the Wall Street Journal, and Dave Kopel raise a series of sensible objections to the measure. France's foreign minister said he was "a bit scandalized" by the vote, while the Vatican condemned the ban as a "blow to freedom of religion." Emboldened by the Swiss vote, the Dutch Freedom Party and the Danish People's Party are now considering similar measures, though both are too small to force a referendum on their own. The Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that the Arab media reaction has, thus far, been rather reserved.
Our favorite MEP, the libertarian Tory Dan Hannan, gets it exactly right by observing that a minaret ban "suggests that Western democracies have a problem, not with jihadi fruitcakes, but with Muslims per se–which is, of course, precisely the argument of the jihadi fruitcakes."