European rabbis condemn Swiss minaret ban
During Moscow summit members of Conference of European Rabbis issue censure of Swiss referendum results endorsing ban on construction of minarets. 'Europe cannot beat radical Islam by knocking down minarets; moderate elements should be supported,' Rabbi Aba Dunner says
Members of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) issued a condemnation Wednesday of a minaret ban endorsed by the Swiss public. During a meeting in Moscow the rabbis declared the decision to be undemocratic for violating freedom of religion.
Executive director of the CER Rabbi Aba Dunner commented on the rabbis' statement and noted that he opposed the ban not only due to the legal issues it posed, but since it reflected a fear of radical Islam.
The rabbi said that Europe could not triumph over Islam by taking down minarets and added that the right course of action should be supporting moderate elements within the Muslim community and cultivating dialogue between religions.
In a referendum held in Switzerland on Sunday, 57.5% of voters approved a ban on construction of new minarets, a decision which prompted worldwide criticism. T
The 47-nation Council of Europe said that banning new minarets in Switzerland "raises concerns as to whether fundamental rights of individuals, protected by international treaties, should be subject to popular votes."
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey expressed the government's concern and said that the restriction of the ability of different cultures and religions to live side by side jeopardized the public's security and could prompt violent reactions on the part of extremists.
Calmy-Rey noted that the ban would come into force immediately, but indicated that it could be overturned since it contradicts the European Human Rights Convention.
The rabbinical censure was issued during a semi-annual conference held by the CER in Russia. Dozens of rabbis from across the continent attended the meeting and marked 20 years to the renewal of Jewish life in Russia. The conference was also attended by Chairman of the Russian Federation Council Sergey Mironov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Israeli Minister for Jewish heritage Meshulam Nahari, as well as representatives from the European Council and the local Jewish community.
European Council President Jerzy Buzek sent a greeting to the conference's participants, in which he wrote that the meeting was a basis for serious dialogue between religions and illustrated the positive relations between Jewish representatives and EU institutes.
He further added that the Jewish faith has contributed to the shaping of European culture and values and noted that cooperation alone would ensure that the events of World War II would not repeat themselves.
During a meeting with the rabbis, Mironov promised that freedom of religion and contact with the Jewish community will be strictly upheld and pledged to fight any manifestation of anti-Semitism. Mironov further noted that he would promote a special memorial day for Holocaust victims to be integrated into the Victory in Europe day.