Turkey joins Swiss minaret row

Turkey has waded into the row over Switzerland’s ban on mosque minarets, saying the decision highlights the resurgence of racism in Europe.

The Swiss people voted to stop the building of minarets on mosques in a referendum on Sunday. Turkish immigrants account for about a quarter of Swiss muslims. In Ankara, President Abdullah Gul called the ban “shameful,” while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it made racism “visible in Europe.”

He also said Switzerland was wrong to take an issue of basic rights to a referendum. The ban was promoted by Swiss nationalist parties but has embarrassed the government in Bern. The country’s foreign minister has warned it could weaken national security.

Swiss president Hans Rudolf Merz said only time will tell whether anger at the vote will get stronger or abate. But he added that by taking the issue of communication seriously, the row could be defused. Opponents of the ban are now pinning their hopes on an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. They claim the ban violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which is guaranteed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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