Via Al-Jazeera Europe and the New York Times

In a referendum vote Sunday, Swiss citizens supported a ban on new minaret construction, voting against the protests of the Swiss government and liberal parties:

Pre-referendum polls had indicated a comfortable, if slowly shrinking, majority against the proposal, but official results Sunday showed that the S.V.P. and its allies had won 57 percent of the vote. The result came after a controversial campaign that played aggressively on the same fears of Muslim immigration and the spread of Islamic values that already resonate in other European countries.

“That Switzerland, a country with a long tradition of religious tolerance and the provision of refuge to the persecuted, should have accepted such a grotesquely discriminatory proposal is shocking indeed,” David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement. (From the New York Times story)

A surprising development, to say the least. Switzerland is a strange country, institutionally – the legislature is generally constrained by the need to create supermajorities in order to enact any law, and altering the constitution is harder still. But, as is the case in California, the “rule by ballot initiative” throws things off considerably, giving fringe groups within the populace a lot more clout than minority parties in the legislative houses possess.

So far, I have yet to read any statements from the right-wing supporters of this proposal that clearly explain how banning minarets will do anything to prevent the spread of radical Islam.


It seemed clear last week that sitting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a tenuous, at best, hold on popular opinion in the run-up to Iran’s presidential elections. Iran’s huge urban youth population overwhelmingly supported a moderate reformer, Mir Hossein Moussavi, who had promised more personal freedom for Iranians and more outreach to the rest of the world.

Riots have broken out in Iran to protest what is being called a rigged election.

Riots have broken out in Iran to protest what is being called a rigged election. (Photo via Agence France Presse)

When the results came in Friday, they showed that Ahmadinejad had won handily — prompting immediate cries of fraud in Tehran and around the rest of the world. Iranians took to the streets in protest, despite a government ban. Rioters faced police squads equipped with tear gas and clubs; photos and YouTube videos linked to by Twitter users have shown people, including women, being savagely beaten by riot police.

They’re still out there now — in Tehran, perhaps more than a million have gathered in the city’s “Freedom Square,” and reports of at least one fatal shooting are emerging from the protest, now more than 72 hours since it began.

This is going on now, so details are difficult to sort out. Christopher Hitchens, who has spent some time writing about Iran and its leaders, cautions not to call what happened in Tehran an election in his column.

Twitterers are providing live coverage (which they have harshly criticized American cable networks for failing to do) of the event, which you can follow using any of these:

Twitterers near Tehran
Real-time images posted via PicFog.

Update: has a hi-res series of some of the most stirring images from the ongoing protest. Some are graphic.