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Swiss minaret ban reflects European fear of Islam

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European leaders and academics decried the vote as a blow not only for Muslims, but for democracy. France's Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, said the decision amounted to "oppressing a religion," reported the Associated Press, while Dieter Oberndörfer of the University of Freiburg in Germany described the decision to the Monitor as "cataclysmal."

But others see a distinction between the freedom to practice one's religion and the increasing presence of Islam in the public sphere, against which they see Switzerland taking a noble stand.

"The Swiss are symbols of the struggle of Europeans against Islamization," says Filip Dewinter, leader of Cities Against Islamization, an umbrella group of representatives from at least seven countries.

While he says he has nothing against religious freedom, "that doesn't mean that you need to build enormous buildings with eccentric minarets like in Saudi Arabia or other Islamic countries," adds Mr. Dewinter, a Flemish separatist politician in Belgium. "Europe is a Christian-based society. We are used to church towers. Mosques do not belong to European culture. That's happening far too much already. We want to stop that."

Campaign based on fear

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