I will probably lose fans over this post. So be it. I've thought pretty hard on this subject since the French decided to ban head coverings and I think the point I'm going to put forward is a needed point even if it is flawed (and I'm sure someone will point flaws out and I welcome it).
Europe and Europeans are an easy target to kick about. Especially if you're not white and non-Christian. With the history of Nazism, Trans-Atlantic slave trading and colonialism of much of the world who could be blamed for picking on Europe and Europeans for xenophobia and discrimination? But while that is easy to do, it also denies the European their right to self determination which we extend to the same groups the European has historically occupied and oppressed. Do the Swiss and the French or whomever have the right to say: This is what it is to be Swiss or French? This is what is and is not acceptable in our land? Is that their right?
Lets look at it from another angle. You can't walk around Saudi Arabia dressed how most Americans dress in the summer. Not only would you most likely insult the cultural sensitivities of the locals, it is highly likely that you'd be arrested for public indecency (Never mind that you'd probably get sun burn). You ever see women who report from some of these Muslim countries? Head draped. For all the talk of tolerance I am yet to see an American reporter show up and broadcast from Arabia like they do from Manhattan. Why not? If the reporter isn't Muslim why should she be subject to the rules of dress or even be looked at oddly for not doing so?
Look at Afghanistan, one of the things about that area of the world is that they do not want or like outside cultures coming in. Oh it's easy to say that they are backwards (and I'm sure many of these "liberals" who are upset about the Swiss vote secretly think just that). But understand that a great deal of the people there would simply not accept foreign or what they perceive as non-Islamic influences on their lives. And I say that is perfectly within' their right.
I would also draw attention to the reader of the fact that in some Muslim countries there are negligible numbers of Christians (or other religious groups). One of the large reasons for this is that apostasy is not looked upon very favorably. In fact in some places that is a crime punishable by death. In fact a Christian convert to Christianity was nearly put to death. Next to a Minaret ban I think the death penalty for conversion is a far more problematic issue.
So we have countries with such a different culture and worldview from the Swiss. The Swiss are presented with immigration of persons from these cultures and who are clearly not Swiss (and in some cases Swiss converts to Islam). The same can be said for France. a huge influx of people who are not French by any definition and on top of that some don't care to be. Now the average reader, particularly one from the States, will say "well what's wrong with not wanting to be Swiss or French?
To that person I would offer this explanation: The US (and Canada) is a country unlike most others on the planet. Unlike Switzerland, France, England, etc. the US is not a country born from it's native peoples. It does not have thousands of years of history of forging an identity that is tangled in it's race and/or ethnicity. It does not have a common language born of it's native people. The US is a colony of people from all over the world. Yes, it's government was created by Englishmen. It's common law is based on English common law, but in essence it is a land not bound by creed but by an adherence to the Constitution. You can (idealy) look like whatever. You can practice whatever religion. Dress how you like, The only real thing required of a US citizen is adherence to the law of the land. A Quaker is just as much American as the Rancher in Texas. In essence this is the basis of the illegal immigration debate. Who gets to define what and who an American is? Unless you're a Native American anyone can trump another person's claim of Americaness by asking "where did YOU come from" where 'You" may mean your ancestors.
This simply does not apply in Europe. The answer to "Who is French" is "I'm from here. I am a Gaul." That is the end of the conversation. No immmigrant, no matter how long they have been there can make such a claim. A Gaul can say to be French is to be, x,y and z and that's it. The Frenchman has every right to determine for himself what Frenchness IS and is not. And they can change that definition at will. Nobody else has the right to tell the French what French culture is. Equally the French cannot tell the Yoruba what Yoruba culture is and WHO is a Yoruba. Catch my point?
If the Swiss want to define their country as a Christian country it is fully within' their rights as a people with self-determination. If they decide that women cannot walk around in public with their faces veiled they are also within' their rights to do so just as the house of Saud can determine that women cannot drive and must be veiled in public. Don't want to be veiled? There are regular flights out the country and special compounds where foreigners live out of sight. If certain countries in Europe allow prostitution. That's their business and their culture. If they allow people to smoke weed in public, it is also their business. We don't regularly question these things.
The argument the Swiss public is making is not so hard. They feel that they do not want to deal with public culture of those who are outsiders in their country. Why should they? Really. The only answer you can give is a projection of your values on the Swiss. It can also be argued that it is the "tolerance" of the Swiss why they are passing such laws. They may see the presence of veils and such as oppressive and intolerant of women. Oh sure the law is about minarets but be sure, this is about far more than that.
I can cite another example. For those that support the state of Israel as a Jewish state are essentially making the same argument as the Swiss. The Zionist is simply far more blatant in his claim to Jewishness and the Jewishness of the homeland. It declares who is and is not a Jew. And there are a lot of people who support this. I do not. The great flaw, and difference, with this Jewishness is that Israel, like America, is a colony state. The Jews that are there have no more claim to the historical land they are on, than I do. There were people there who were displaced to make the state only unlike the Native American, the Palestinian refused to roll over and play casino. Though to be fair to the Native American, they were at a severe disadvantage.
Of course there is a twist. In many countries in Europe the native population is not reproducing at a rate to sustain itself. If they are to survive and maintain their social programs they need to attract immigrants. Of course immigrants come from non-Swiss countries and therefore bring their own cultures (including religion) to their new homes. So the Swiss, while focusing in on their Muslim population may be ignoring their own self created demographic problem. If Europeans want to draw hard lines about what it is to be of a certain culture, then they ought to start reproducing to the extent that they can sustain and grow their own populations and have enough workers to man the jobs they import people for. Of interest about the Minaret law is that it is reported that most of the Muslims in Switzerland are from Eastern Europe and not Arabia or Indo-china, which throws a tool into the straightforward anti-Arab argument. You would think, and I'm sure the Swiss thought that such Europeans would have been easier to integrate into Swiss society.
I'd like to think of it like visiting someone's house. Yes they are expected to show hospitality. But you can't walk in the house stay for a few days and then start talking about how you're going to paint the place a different color, play loud music that the host doesn't care for, tell them to stop cooking whatever food they like 'cause it offends you. No. If you don't like house you leave. In that vein I think that Muslims who veil, when in Europe, ought to show the same deference that Europeans are expected to show in Muslim countries and take off the veil if the local population is offended by it. That's being a gracious guest.
Self determination is the right of all people. That includes Europeans. I think it is foolish to simply talk about the recent Swiss vote as merely or solely about xenophobia (a term I think is way overused) or Islamophobia (another overused term). But one has to take into consideration the hostility that European concepts of freedom took with the Cartoon mess. You have to think of the Director who was killed over his movie on the abuses some women in Muslim countries undergo.
In the end though, anyone who was paying attention to demographics could have seen this coming. And I think it is a mistake to think of Europe as one thinks of America. And one has to seriously consider why is it wrong for Europeans in their own homelands to expect their homelands to look like their homelands? I seriously doubt that such a question would even be broached for a non-European country. And if the Swiss have nothing to fear, then are Nigerians making too much (or little) fuss about Sharia? Is that fearmongering or an observation?