Posted on 30-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

Displaying the flaws in holding fundamental freedoms hostage to the caprices of public referendums, Swiss voters in a distressing result voted to ban the construction of minarets.  One can understand the unease in countries that historically have not faced waves of immigrants from alien cultures (or from a religion with whom there has been an inherent sense of hostility for about 1,400 years) as they struggle to absorb these new immigrants while preserving a sense of national identity and shared cultural values. But as they complain about the refusal to immigrants to look outside their ethnic ghettos, one wonders why people think a vote like this would help the assimilation process (the same goes for the equally idiotic French decision to ban head scarves in schools).  As previously posted on this blog, integration is a complicated issue but rank fear based bigotry does not help matters.

It is tempting to point to the United States as an example, but this country has acquired experience absorbing immigrants since its inception.  Even here the process has been hard, from Benjamin Franklin complaining about the effect of rising German immigration on the use of English and the resulting political threat (sound familiar Mr. Dobbs?) to concerns a 100 years ago that Italian immigrants were importing their brand of seditious anarchism.  But this country survived and the original English culture grew richer by the addition.  It is not an easy lesson to transfer to the inherently more culturally conservative and homogeneous old world.

It will be interesting to observe whether the vote this weekend leads to a financial backlash.  The usual bunch of xenophobes in Denmark and The Netherlands have already piped up to call for similar referendums.  Just how far this spreads remains to be seen.  However, it is still unclear whether this referendum will be upheld by Swiss courts.

One final point in this imbroglio should be made.  While Muslim immigrant groups in Europe should speak up to combat discrimination, it is hard to extend the same latitude to the howls of outrage emanating from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.  While some of these countries are all to willing to cast stones at Europe, they have been singularly unwilling to grant similar freedoms to religious minorities at home.   And the religious minorities in many cases are not foreign immigrants but locals.  As the old saying goes, people in glass houses should not toss stones.

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Posted on 30-11-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Reacting to the recent IAEA censure, the Iranian regime has reacted with a show of petulance announcing 10 new uranium enrichment plants for uranium it does not have.  The IAEA vote was significant in that Iran got no support from countries it could rely on in the past including Russia, China, India and South Africa.  Even though Brazil has resisted joining the international chorus, more reactions like the one this Sunday could fritter away any goodwill Iran possesses for its legal position that even the Non Proliferation Treaty allows Iran to enrich uranium for civilian use.  However, the NPT requires transparency in Iranian actions which has not been forthcoming.  The Iranian reaction may also point to continuing tensions within the regime on how to proceed without losing face.  The question is whether this back and forth forces Russia and China to join in a meaningful sanctions regime (which is useless without them) and how soon, if ever, this happens.

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