On the Use of Religious Symbols

Much has been made of the fact that the Swiss population rejected via a referendum the further propagation of religious symbols across the Swiss  landscape in the form of minarets on mosques.  Predictably, the politically correct have cried foul and see this as an assault on the freedom to practice a religion.

And – not surprisingly – most of the noise about this will come from the Muslim communities around the world,  and which are not exactly known for their tolerance  of  divergent religious beliefs in  their midst. In fact, they are the least likely to make allowances for other religions  in their communities – and the irony of this should not  be lost on anyone

But let’s be clear:  this is less about the freedom of religion, and more  about the need by some to brand the landscape with one’s  particular flavor of religious superstition through the use of distinctive architecture.

When this has happened, I can’t help but think of how similar this is to what animals do to mark their territory (!)  But by erecting one’s uniquely symbolic  architecture across the country is one way to assert ownership or control of sorts.  This is religion at its very tribal origin – and  goes together with all the other outward symbols of religious tribalism, such as hairstyles,  beards, turbans and other headgear, e.g., burkas, kippahs,  shtreimels, as well as specific rituals, such as genital mutilation, etc.

And so this wasn’t at all about some religious group not being able to practice their faith in public. But by  rejecting the public display  of their most visible and overt  symbolism of their faith  across their landscape,  the Swiss are in effect only saying that  “believe what you want, but don’t  claim our landscape with it!