Monday, January 25, 2010

OPINION: Fourteenth Column in Crescent Times: How to burn Swiss chocolate?

Next week, I’m organizing a huge bonfire. Hundreds of people dedicated to freedom of religion will be joining me. We have decided to show our solidarity with four Swiss minarets by burning the symbols of Swiss culture at our disposal.

Some will bring chocolate to burn. Others will turn the bonfire into a huge toasted sandwich by emptying their fridges of imported cheese.

Still others will be targeting cuckoo clocks. The wealthier ones will bring records of their secret bank accounts (I assure readers I’m not in that category).

I’m shocked that Muslims are not repeating the imbecilic spectacle that accompanied (or rather, that followed by 6 months) the publication of the Danish cartoons. Remember the burning of embassies? Remember the huge protests in Arab and other nominally Muslim countries where normally you cannot even sneeze without the secret police reading the contents of your handkerchief to make sure the blood and mucus don’t spell some criticism of the king or general or emir?

I doubt any crazed crowds will be protesting or burning Swiss embassies. Why? Because let’s be frank and honest about this. Where will the corrupt Muslim rulers store their ill-gotten and embezzled wealth if they tell their people to boycott all things Swiss? Which other country has such liberalized banking laws that allow corrupt despots to hide their loot?

Swiss Muslims are largely of indigenous European - Albanian, Bosnian and Turkish – extraction. Their mosques are likely to be designed along Ottoman lines, with flat domes and skinny minarets that look like scud missiles (and would probably be about as inaccurate if filled with explosives and launched). Ottoman mosques are modeled on the St Sophia’s Orthodox Basilica in what was once Constantinople. Apparently when the city was taken over by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, he ordered the Basilica to be surrounded by a bunch of minarets but otherwise left the structure intact. He also ordered mosques across the empire, including in European cities like Sarajevo, to be designed to resemble the cathedral/mosque.

And so mosques across the Ottoman empire resemble Eastern Greek churches. But where did Fatih Sultan Mehmed get the idea of minarets anyway? After all, the first mosques built by the Prophet in Quba did not have big tall minarets. Neither did his mosque in Madina. The minarets were added after he passed away.

So where did the minarets come from? Well, when the first generations moved out of Arabia, they modeled their mosques on the existing architecture. One of the oldest mosques in existence can be found in China. It was built by a companion of a companion (tab at-tabi’i). If you walked in the street where it was located, you could not tell it was a mosque from its architecture. Why? Because it looks just like a Chinese pagoda.

Similarly, mosques in Syria were modeled on existing Byzantine churches, which had towers for bells. Muslims also decided to build towers for their muezzins.

And so the minaret is little more than an act of architectural plagiarism. Muslims added minarets to mosques so that they did not stick out like sore thumbs in the environment.

The early Muslims were happy to build mosques that looked like the houses of worship of the dominant cultures where they settled. Australian Muslims, of course, don’t need to follow this precedent. We prefer building mosques that look like something out of 1965 Karachi. We cry “racism” when residents get upset at our insistence at always being different. Then we spend tens of thousands of dollars taking local councils to court. All for the right to build domes and minarets that our ancestors copied from churches and synagogues anyway.

Still, try telling moronic Swiss voters that they are seeking to maintain their Christian heritage by objecting to what are essentially (or at least historically) Christian religious symbols. It isn’t just their clocks that have gone cuckoo.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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