The Swiss Path to Isolation

Religion and Politics

Europe is progressing to become socially conservative, with many European states seeking to reduce the flow of immigration in their territories. The recent referendum in Switzerland that voted in favour, by a mere margin of 0.4 percent, to reduce immigration has been highly controversial across the international community. While the right-wing Swiss People’s Party argues that it will benefit the Swiss economy in the long-run it cannot be ignored that conservative, discriminating and xenophobic views have been a major factor in the decision to limit immigration.

It is not surprising that the Swiss are following a path of isolation, as the Swiss have already been at the forefront of limiting and restricting, even as far as discriminating religious and ethnic minorities. In 2009, the Swiss have voted in favour of a ban of the construction of minarets, which sparked widespread controversy. The Vatican claims that the ban infringes on religious freedom while Swiss Catholic bishops regret the decision, saying that the Swiss People’s Party exaggerated the “alleged threat posed by Muslims”. The sentiment that Switzerland will be flooded with minarets and Muslims is inherently unfounded and ignorant.

The German political satire show Extra 3 presented a picture that shows the Swiss football national team, which has players of multicultural background erased, leaving only three “pure” Swiss players. Modernity in Switzerland is reflected in multiculturalism. Unlike in Canadian society, where multiculturalism is constitutionally protected, Switzerland questions whether multiculturalism is possible. It is important to mention that the Swiss state exists already for more than 700 years, with myths and legends emerging from national heroes and patriots such as Wilhelm Tell.

Swiss society has accepted the idea that they are at the heart of Europe and that people travel through the state on a daily base. The size of its territory, however, makes it difficult for the Swiss to accept that a foreigner is to enter their little mountainous home, especially from a Muslim state. It also makes it difficult for Swiss conservatives to accept a changing social landscape that increasingly depicts non-Swiss and non-Christian people.

The conservatives, more specifically the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, took it upon themselves to protect the Swiss culture that they feel is in danger of being eliminated. The referendum to restrict immigration as well as banning the construction of minarets exists to protect themselves from outsiders. Muslims in Switzerland are not only singled out because of their differing beliefs from Western and liberal values, but also because of the fear of the Swiss of outsiders and strangers.


One thought on “The Swiss Path to Isolation

  1. I enjoyed reading this piece, in part because of the apparent prior knowledge of the blogger, and obvious amount of interest he/she has already invested in the subject. The fact that they are aware of German satirical commentary and are able to connect a number of news stories was impressive and lended to a holistic view on the topic. However, I do find playing the ‘devils advocate’ amusing so I will defend Switzerlands foreign policy. I’ll start by saying that most of the European countries experiencing an influx of immigration are those which have had colonial interest in a said country; for instance Moroccans in France or Indo-Pakistanis in Britain. I’m assuming that has a lot to do with the fact that national languages, cultures and political/financial situations were deeply influenced by colonizers, and when they left things to oppressive regimes, the people sought a familiar freedom in whichever country had previously been involved. The chickens coming home to roost, I’d say. To my knowledge, Switzerland has never been a part of imperialism, so even if they’re a bit intolerant of change and they prefer to isolate themselves, at least they’re not hypocrites. They are choosing to stay to themselves as they always have, and I don’t know that I can disagree. They are among the most peaceful countries in the world. As a Canadian, of course I’d like to see religious freedom protected worldwide, but sometimes I wonder, ‘Who am I to impose?’

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