Even Dan Hannan opposes the ban on minarets


3:00 pm - December 1st 2009

by Neil Robertson    


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Is it still committing heresy to link favourably to right wing Tory MEP Daniel Hannan? Ah well, I was never going to be invited to the Cool Kids’ table anyway:

The decision by Swiss voters to outlaw the construction of minarets strikes me as regrettable on three grounds.

First, it is at odds with that other guiding Swiss principle, localism: issues of this kind ought surely to be settled town by town, or at least canton by canton, not by a national ban.

Second, it is disproportionate. There may be arguments against the erection of a particular minaret by a particular mosque – but to drag a constitutional amendment into the field of planning law is using a pneumatic drill to crack a nut.

Third, it suggests that Western democracies have a problem, not with jihadi fruitcakes, but with Muslims per se – which is, of course, precisely the argument of the jihadi fruitcakes.

Hannan’s last point is surely the most important. Whilst there may have been a few Swiss voters who voted for the ban solely out of aesthetic antipathy, I suspect they were somewhat outnumbered by people who voted because they are suspicious, wary or even scared of their Muslim countrymen.

If a number of amateur bloggers can speculate that fear of Muslims led to this vote, you can be pretty sure that Swiss Muslims have gotten the message, too. And therein lies the problem; othering often leads to more marginalisation, segregation, exclusion, distrust and bitterness than existed before. Those are pretty ripe conditions for political and religious extremism to fester, and so the proponents of the ban are actually succeeding in compounding a problem they supposedly wish to reduce. So they’re either dishonest or deeply daft.

I’m not going to claim that there’s some silver bullet for achieving greater social & cultural integration, and I’m not going to pass myself off as any kind of expert about extinguishing militant theism. But I do know that neither of those aims are going to be achieved by winning small-minded & petty restrictions on what religious buildings look like.

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About the author
Neil Robertson is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He was born in Barnsley in 1984, and through a mixture of good luck and circumstance he ended up passing through Cambridge, Sheffield and Coventry before finally landing in London, where he works in education. His writing often focuses on social policy or international relations, because that's what all the Cool Kids write about. He mostly blogs at: The Bleeding Heart Show.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Libertarians ,Race relations ,Religion

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Reader comments


Ridiculous headline.

When did you last beat your wife?

He’s wrong if he does; who are we to lecture the Swiss.

2 – Perhaps ‘disagrees with’ rather than ‘opposes’? If we’re going to split hairs that is. I think he summed up his views by saying ‘right process, wrong result’.

But I do know that neither of those aims are going to be achieved by winning small-minded & petty restrictions on what religious buildings look like.

No, probably not.

On the other hand I have never been persuaded of the “don’t accuse these fundamentally peaceful people of not being peaceful, or else….” line of argument.

Dan’s position was a bit more nuanced than that. He stands by the result (which he has to as an advocate of direct democracy), but is entitled to believe the result is wrong.

One of the tenets of democracy is that the majority can be wrong, but we must stand by them.

One of the side effects of being a supporter of direct democracy is that you must accept the tyranny of the majority.

6. Dick the Prick

As per Tory Bear – ‘even Dan Hannan’ – gadzooks – say it ain’t so.

7. Mike Killingworth

I have no problem agreeing with his localist point and I have a suspicion that the Swiss “establishment” will seek another referendum to enshrine just that (presumably the judges sort it out if clauses in the Swiss constitution contradict each other) but I’m really posting to link to this:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23777617-middle-class-do-not-grasp-the-problems-of-immigration.do

Not only do the middle classes not “grasp” the problems – they mostly benefit.

Higher house prices; cheaper staff. Middle class heaven.

Got, not gotten, please

One of the side effects of being a supporter of direct democracy is that you must accept the tyranny of the majority.

Perhaps, but that acceptance need not be entirely unconditional. For example, it would be perfectly possible to support both direct democracy and the UDHR/ECHR, in which case the provisions of the latter would necessarily overrule the former. Also, in any country with a written constitution, that constitution would obviously place limits on the acceptable outcomes from direct democracy.

It is generally accepted that majority support does not make illegal actions legal, or unconstitutional actions constitutional.

11. astateofdenmark

Agree with above posters, that’s a disgraceful headline.

The headline makes sense if it is referring to the fact that Hannan is a prominent supporter of direct democracy but even he can recognise that they get the wrong result sometimes.

Obviously it can also be read as implying that he is a notable proponent of anti-muslim legislation which would be untrue as far as I am aware and therefore highly unfair.

I think the headline may refer to the other piece on this site to do with the Minaret ban (which I wrote, hurrah!).

It’s my piece and I have been following the comments, and because Neil is also writing about this subject (and I am vain) I assume he has too.

Essentially, a fairly large number of Libertarians, including the Number 3 Total Politics Libertarian Blogger, have made utter fools of themselves with respect to this issue.

Dan Hannan is a prominent Libertarian blogger, and it appears one who is far more philophically consistent the Old Holborn et al. on this thread here. This is what the “even” refers too.

Without the context, it does look a little aggressive, especially since this site has a habit of attacking – with justification – Dan Hannan, but I think more than enough plausible explanations have been offered to explain it. Also Neil is a nice person, but we’ll have t wait to see which plausible explantion is actually the correct one when he comes back from whereever he is.

Just a quick point that I noticed thousands of minarets when I was last in Israel.

You know Israel the only f*****g democracy in the middle east.

What is up with you anti-semites, islamists and left & right arseoles.

It was my heading – written just after wading through 100+ comments on the previous thread on minarets – so blame me, not Neil. It is a contribution to the debate between different kinds of libertarians that we have been hosting.

I am entertained to see some commentators, who normally have no problem dishing out harsh words to those they disagree with, suddenly get all offended on Hannan’s behalf.

“. It is a contribution to the debate between different kinds of libertarians ”

Would those different types be Islamophobic-fuckwit-libertarians, and at-least-ideologically-consistent libertarians?

17. Donut Hinge Party

You know Israel the only f*****g democracy in the middle east.

Oh, you mean the one that goes against UN laws, bombs civilians and imprisons people without due process?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu

I love Jews – Zionists, however are a different matter.

The Swiss accuse Muslims of oppression of women, homosexuals and Jews.

This is nonsense. Muslims are still only a minority, and stoning, beheading and amputation of these groups will not happen under current, secular laws.

19. Shatterface

‘Also, in any country with a written constitution, that constitution would obviously place limits on the acceptable outcomes from direct democracy’

It’s not so much a debate on ‘acceptable outcomes’ as to what matters should be put to a ‘democratic’ vote in the first place. Whatever the result of the vote, it is the legitimacy of the question that matters.

Democracy is an excellent tool for deciding on matters which effect the participants but it’s a lousy system for deciding matters which matter a great deal to a small number of people but place a negligible burden on others.

My neighbours might legitimately ask for restrictions if I have music blaring out of my house at all hours of the night but they have fuck all say on what I listen to on my iPod.

Minaretes do not, in themselves, impose on the rights of others.

I’m an atheist and I would be happy to see religion consigned to the history books but that’s the job of argument and reason – or even mockery – not legislation.

20. Shatterface

(And please lets not turn this into a debate on Israel. That’s for another thread and is entirely irrelevant here.)

On the other hand I have never been persuaded of the “don’t accuse these fundamentally peaceful people of not being peaceful, or else….” line of argument.

Quite easily convinced by naked bigotry then are you cjcjc? I suppose if anyone accused all Jews of something, you’d be ok with that too?

I love it when Mini-Fawkes (aka Tory Bear) gets all mock-angry.

I am entertained to see some commentators, who normally have no problem dishing out harsh words to those they disagree with, suddenly get all offended on Hannan’s behalf

Heh. Seconded. Don’t you love faux outrage by right-whingers?

The headline does imply that Hannan has a track record of Islamophobia or even racism. If he has it’s the first I’ve heard of it. It’s a little lazy to assume that everyone on the swivel-eyed wing of the tory party is a racist.

Tory Bear,

When did you last beat your wife?

Which one? And does Liberal Conspiracy really need to take lessons in headline-writing from a blogger who isn’t even a real bear??

Nobody needs to apologise for the post title. Anyone who reads this post will understand that I agree with Hannan’s argument, and anyone who’s read other stuff I’ve written will know that I understand how consistent his position is with libertarian thnking. For example, I’m one of a few writers on this site who’ll get defended by libertarians for my position on drugs.

However, I’m not sure Hannan’s position is necessarily consistent with thinking amongst conservatives, and I think some of the comments on the end of his post support that. There will be people who agree with him on a great number of areas but still won’t be able to support him on this; and I find that noteworthy.

Failing all that, I just thought his argument was one of the best I’d read. Nobody can be wrong all the time 😉

Just to say, I am not outraged by the headline. Indeed, I am delighted to see Hannan being given something approaching a fair hearing. Perhaps worth remembering his view on this next time poorly evidenced accusations of racism come flying at Hannan from the left.

26. domesticextremist

Clearly the Swiss had a variety of motives for voting for this ban, including the position that minarets are an assertive symbol of what many regard as a deplorably sexist and homophobic religion. Swiss voters must be at liberty, if they choose, to signal a principled distaste for Islam, and indeed for any faith which encourages irrational prejudices that conflict with elementary human rights.

27. domesticextremist

@ Martin Coxall: One of the side effects of being a supporter of direct democracy is that you must accept the tyranny of the majority.

– which might well be preferable to what occurs under what Miliband père correctly described as capitalist democracy, i.e. the tyranny of that tiny minority, the ruling class.

Well, Guardian Cif readers seem to be overwhelmingly in support of the Swiss ban. See here:

http://libertyphile2.blogspot.com/

The analysis gives also a good picture of why people support the ban.

“The analysis gives also a good picture of why people support the ban.”

Yes it does, because they’re ill-informed xenophobes.

If the 800 odd Guardian Cif commenters and those who gave them those 12,000 votes supporting the Swiss ban, are ill-informed xenophobes, where, I would like to know, were all the well-informed multicultural loving Cif readers.


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