(AFP) – Dec 10, 2009
BUSSIGNY, Switzerland — A Swiss businessman appalled by his fellow countrymen's decision to ban minarets has extended a chimney above his company building into a minaret in protest.
"It was scandalous that the Swiss voted for the ban. Now we have the support of all the far-right parties across Europe. This is shameful," Guillaume Morand, who owns a chain of shoe stores, told AFP.
The businessman, who is not a Muslim, explained that the he had constructed the mock minaret at his building near western Switzerland's city of Lausanne in protest, and at the same time, to "send a message of peace."
More than 57 percent of voters upset opinion polls and defied their government by approving the right wing motion to ban minarets -- the turrets or towers on mosques from which Muslims are called to prayer.
The outcome of the referendum brought by members of the hard-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) and other right wing groups was also hailed by anti-immigrant party leaders elsewhere in Europe.
Morand blamed other political parties in Switzerland for not having campaigned against the far-right motion ahead of the referendum.
"They were all against it but they did not explain the issue clearly to the country," he said, pointing out that only the SVP's controversial poster campaign was visible.
The SVP had sought support for the ban through a poster campaign depicting a burqa-clad woman against a background of a Swiss flag upon which several minarets resembling missiles are erected.
Morand said he viewed the ban was all the more "scandalous" given that Switzerland actively encourages Arabs to "visit the country and to spend their money here."
The minaret, which has been in place since Tuesday, has "generated a lot of interest," he said, adding that he will wait and see before deciding if further action was needed to push his point.
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