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Swiss minarets ban 'will fuel Islamophobia in Europe' - Imam

The Swiss 'yes' vote in a referendum banning the construction of new minarets was a violation of international law and violated religious freedom, Imam Mohammad ElSadi, head of the Muslim community in Malta, said in a statement today.

Earlier today, Archbishop Paul Cremona, speaking on the PBS programme Bongu also condemned the vote, saying it went against religious freedom and freedom to express religious belief.

The Imam said the vote disappointed all those who held peace and tolerance at heart all over the world.

"This vote violates international law and breaches religious freedom and the right of every community to acquire its own proper places of worship according to their traditions.

"This vote is a racist and discriminatory, particularly against Muslims, because it does not include any restrictions on the places of worship of other religions. It provokes and offends the sentiments of 1300 million Muslims all over the world."

The Imam said such a vote would fuel Islamophobia in Europe and hatred and extremism on both sides.

It also created fear and a feeling of instability among Muslim communities in Europe and frustrated their attempts to integrate in European societies.

"Really, it is a threat to peaceful relations among the followers of different faiths."

The Imam said this vote was the first of its kind regarding Islam in Europe. It would therefore, unfortunately, become a precedent which paved the way for similar referenda in other European countries.

"Already the right parties in Holland and Italy are supporting and promoting such referenda to restrict Islam."

The Imam said he could not understand what kind of harm a minaret could cause to the people of Switzerland. There are only four minarets there.

"What do minarets have to do with fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism in the minds or in the stones?

"What will be the reaction of those who supported the vote if we - Muslims - carry such referenda in our countries regarding the churches?"

The Imam said he was sure that those who were behind this vote are not true Christians but racists. Those who really loved Christianity respect all religions.

The result of this vote, he said, would harm to the reputation of Switzerland as a neutral, tolerant and peaceful country.

"We respect democracy and the will of the majority but democracy without having a set of values and a human rights frame is like riding a blind horse without a bridle and saddle. Both the horseman and the horse are in imminent danger.

"We would like to express our thanks and appreciations to the Vatican, Amnesty International, the Council of human rights of the United Nations, European and non-European Governments, International Organizations and all those who expressed their disagreement with the Swiss vote."

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