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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Interview with Swiss Gingerbread Minaret Facebook Group

Gingerbread, mostly observed at Christmas time in forms of house and man, is now being shaped as a minaret by many people all over the world, in order to protest the Minaret Ban in Switzerland. A Swiss theology student in Norway, Markus Keller recently created a Facebook group called “Swiss Gingerbread Minaret” so that everyone could make their gingerbread minaret and post it online. Having already 192 members, the Swiss Gingerbread Minaret group is, as Markus posts online, enjoying the creativity and the bitter irony of the human rights being violated in Genève.

-How did you have the idea of creating that group on Facebook? Did you ever see any other group similar to that?Markus Keller: “Making houses out of gingerbread is a Norwegian Christmas tradition. I am not sure how it is other places, but I assume it is quite normal in at least north of Europe. As a former theology student my wife and I have had a project of making ‘holly buildings destroyed by god’. This year however the minaret case seemed more important. It is a sort of gimmick, but the issue behind it is very important to me. I have not seen such a group before, but I am not too active on Facebook.”

-What did you first feel and what do you think about the minaret ban in Switzerland? “We are very critical of the ban in Switzerland, primarily as it is a part of what I consider a new wave of fascism and ethnic chauvinism and hostility in Europe. The enemy image of the Muslim is explained by a European myth-symbol complex strongly simplified. Together with the essentialist explanation of cultural and religious heritage this is much the same as the reasons for WWII German Nazism, Balkan genocide and USA warfare in the Middle East.”

-Ginger bread is associated with Christmas. Do you think having ginger bread minarets in Christmas contributes to cultural and religious dialogue? “The mixing of such symbols is clearly a part of the gimmick. Whether it will contribute to religious dialogue is hard to say. I find that most of those partaking in such dialogue are on much the same page any way. At least a tendency in Scandinavia where religious dialogue never cross political lines. This mix is something you can do with cultural symbols. Culture and religion are always changing, and displaying this is the best and worst you can do to cultural essentialists.”

-What kind of reaction do you receive about your group and idea? Do you think this idea may spread in other countries? “Positive so far, but none of my Swiss relatives have joined yet. This group will stand after Christmas, but the more that join, the better.”

-Do you think the discussions in Switzerland are accurately represented in world media? Do you think there is anything to add about the process? “The discussion in Switzerland is of course best represented in Swiss media (big surprise). Outside, the issue gets picked up by the same political movements in the respective countries. This has resulted in a long list of similar referenda throughout Europe even though they do not have the same type of direct democracy. It is not very accurately represented, but at least in Europe the actors are the same in several countries and therefore people more easily understand it.”

-Do you think the ban can be canceled? What can be done? “Yes or no. First no, because this goes against the constitution. but if they choose not to care about such minor facts I imagine two scenarios. Scenario 1: I think this will end up in Hague and perhaps on a referendum of whether Switzerland should de-ratify the European Human Rights Convention (EHRC), which they wouldn’t. Scenario 2: The Swiss government ignores the EHRC and no one gets it up in Hague. Then I think the only right thing will be to withdraw the international Human Rights institutions and inspectors from Geneva.”

Facebook Group: Swiss Gingerbread Minaret