Monday, December 7, 2009

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, a Minaret

Q: What's your reaction to Sunday's decision by voters in Switzerland to ban construction of minarets, the slender towers from which Muslims are called to daily prayers?

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, A Minaret
I can appreciate the power of symbol, in particular the power of public symbols. I come from South Carolina, a state where the government still flies the confederate battle flag on the grounds of the state house. Through years of heated debate and significant economic boycotts the state has continued to fly this flag, a symbol of hate used to create and promote an environment of fear amongst both the state’s population of color and whites. While one might argue that this prominent display of this flag is merely symbolic, it has real consequences as it takes the existing fears and magnifies them spreading fear and oppression into that state’s future. Yes, symbols have power in our culture.

While it may appear that the Swiss ban on minarets is an attack on an Islamic symbol, it is in of itself a symbolic act. It may appear that this piece of legislation is merely symbolic. This ban is a fearful act and is symbolic in the same way that the continual presence of the confederate battle flag on the state house grounds in Columbia is a fearful act. This ban takes existing, irrational, and hateful fears and magnifies and spreads them. And not only does the fear of Islam spread but Muslim’s fear spreads. And a nation, like a state, is divided and pushed apart as people move into the future in fear.

But we do not have to choose symbolic acts which promote fear. In my religious tradition, as we approach Christmas during the Advent season, there is a sense of hope of what is to come on Christmas. Yet, if we are honest, there is also an element of fear. For us, as Christ comes into the world, Christ brings something new and unknown, something we do not know. But ultimately, we proclaim that when God comes into the world our hopes are fulfilled. God chooses hope over fear. And so, as we face an unknown future we are empowered to choose hope over fear. We are called to symbols of hope, not fear, so that this same hope might be magnified and spread in the face of the fears we all possess.


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