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UK architects criticise Swiss minaret ban

British architects have slammed a vote in Switzerland blocking the construction of minarets

In a referendum organised by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), 57.5 per cent of voters approved a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets.

The SVP labelled minarets as symbols of a rising political power that could transform Switzerland into an Islamic state. Voters in just four of the country’s 26 cantons, or states, rejected the initiative.

Mangera Yvars Architects’ Ali Mangera, who masterminded the original London super-mosque proposals, said: ‘Decisions like this should be placed on architectural factors, not a pretext against Islam. This is more to do with the emasculation of a group of people – the right wing is behind this.

He added: ‘[Minarets] are not ideal for every part of London and they are not just about the call to prayer. But they are interesting features and also function as natural air conditioning mechanisms. ’

Adrian Stewart, director of Do Architecture, which designed the minaret-less Al-Furqan Mosque in Glasgow for the UK Islamic Mission, said: ‘This is being used to isolate a community. A minaret is not a critical component of a mosque and does not always have to be involved. The debate has been blown out of proportion. We know from experience there is a desire to generate a regionalism, which makes a mosque very much more about its location.’

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, commented that mosques and minarets in Europe remained ‘manifestations of the proudly indigenous nature of Islam in Europe’.

He added: ‘It is tragic that the far right is stripping away at our heritage of coexistence between faiths and cultures in Europe.’

Far right parties in Austria, Belgium and France have used the Swiss vote to call for a similar ban in their own countries.


Readers' comments (7)

  • So, not exactly a massed outcry by UK architects then?

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  • I don't think this is about architecture or the design of towers. The Swiss people have voted on both sides of an important political issue in a democratic election, something which would be impossible in most islamic states.

    If you don't believe this, try taking a bible through customs in Saudi Arabia, where any attempt to build a place of worship for non-muslims will be met with swift and severe punishment. The contributors to this article seem to imply that it's acceptable for muslim countries to impose restrictions on freedom of religion within their own borders, but unacceptable for non-muslim countries. And we wonder why the far right is gaining ground?

    I fully support and fervently hope for the integration of human society, but I sincerely doubt that the architectural design of mosques is the way to achieve this goal.

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  • Islam is equally as indigenous as christianity in Europe (Christianity being from the middle east, no?), and arguably formed one of the most progressive civilisations in Europe's history during the period of Islamic Spain.

    This is extremist islamophobic bullshit from a country with a bit of weird track record when comes to democracy, that after all didn't give women the vote until the 70's.

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  • Didn't Mangera famously propose a Mosque without minarets?

    Anyway, this is another good example of how we architects don't like the democratic process since it clashes with our own personal goals and ego.

    Like it or not, this was a referendum and as usual the supposed liberals (i use that word in its loosest sense for Switzerland) can't get off their backsides and make their vote count. Perhaps voting booths in Langstrasse would help.

    Plus Switzerland is not part of the EU and a closed shop where they have a lot of gold and every guy does national service each year and keep their weapons at home. Why is this referendum result a surprise?

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  • I think a more accurate reading of the progress of civilisation comes from the philosophical background to societies and their development (aristolte, plato v. confucius), not religion such as christianity v. islam. All religions have at points in history displayed pretty barbaric behaviour, christianity in the medieval times being a good case in point. I don't see how christianity civilized us, in fact was the Enlightenment not about using reasoning to shift away from the backwards, christian gothic of the medieval period?

    The argument that because islamic countries restrict religious freedoms this gives western countries license to likewise indulge in intolerance seems a bit illogical. Surely that is what makes us different ie tolerant, open, free ?

    Its reactionary, irrational and a bit vindictive in the pettiness of the legislation that is a poor reflection on Switzerland.

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  • This 'outcry' from some UK-based architects seems to me to demonstrate a limited understanding of the Swiss mentality. Switzerland is a neutral state at the heart of Europe that, above anything, values continuity.

    It is, to an extent, wary of globalising forces - but this does not equate to racism, xenophobia or any other sort of 'dark force'. There is a fine line to walk between just becoming a generic space - as the UK has largely become, and being accused of being a fascist because you want to preserve a cultural, national or regional identity and a notion of 'placeness' - which of course risks getting into Heideigger territory (and no doubt, that will then get us on to the Nazis). It's not black and white, its not lended to the sort of binary thinking that increasingly that the press likes to publish these days. Its far more complex.

    Switzeland sees their architecture as a very important cultural asset that forms part of a tradition and a continuum. You could contrasst with the the stop start, jerking, frequently vulgar, showy type of architecture we get in the UK and France. If we are going to get on the subject of buildings and their impact on society, I think Britain is probably not the one to be piping up too soon. We are hardly the gold standard for social cohesion.

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  • Most of the minarets built outside asia are simply badly designed and ugly.

    Of course people will vote against them.

    Its a stupid survey.

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