Reality Check India

Media minarets

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 3, 2009

I followed with great amusement The Acorn’s expert deconstruction of Mr Vishnu Som’s startling assertion that the swiss minaret ban “represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country”.

In his response, he really goes to town on those who call him on it.  You can tell he left nuance at home as he goes to work defending his statement. The closest he gets is this :

One can go on and on with this line of thought … the central point being easy to understand … the decision to ban minarets is regressive, its anti-Muslim, and violates religious freedom. As I have argued earlier, this is part of a larger wave against Muslims … perhaps part of the generalisation that Muslims are universally terrorists or inclined to violence.

I cannot tolerate such a generalisation and cannot tolerate people who believe that to be the truth. And it is generalisations like this which represent a fundamental threat to Muslims in India and around the world.

Can the minaret ban be considered to be regressive, anti-muslim, and violates religious freedom ? Sure.  But the prayer call is banned in many places around the world. Many mosques in the western world do not have minarets.  So, this is really a ban on the future construction of a specific type architectural feature. All four existing swiss minarets can stay.

What we are left with is this. Generalizations that all muslims are universally terrorists or inclined to violence represent a fundamental threat to Muslims in Indian and around the world.

That is like pouring a keg of water into a pitcher of beer.

Nitin called him out specifically on this:  Cause = ‘minaret ban’, Effect = ‘fundamental threat to millions of muslims in our country’

Mr Vishnu Som puts up a defence of this:  Cause = ‘stereotyping of all muslims as terrorists’, Effect = ‘fundamental threat to all muslims of the world including Indians’.

Problem is we cant go from here to there. The new diluted version drips innocence.

Before you dismiss this little social media skirmish, think about why they say the things they say.

About a week ago, another ELM anchor claimed that India’s recent vote against Iran will have far reaching domestic political impact.  Really ?

Indian Muslims are Indian just like everyone else. They worry about rampant price rise, ten thousand crore scams, and rapidly deteriorating living standards just like Hindus.  Of course, they would be upset with the minaret ban, just like a Tamil Hindu will be upset about their beloved Murugan temples bulldozed in Malaysia. Existing temples were not spared either. Yet, no one said this was a fundamental threat to Hindus in India.  You may think this why-cant-i-have-what-he-has arguments are tiring. I agree, but they represent the touchstone of reason.

Upset, even anger, cannot be parlayed into a fundamental threat.

Constantly drumming into our heads that Indian muslims obsess, at a fundamental level, about their  coreligionists  in faraway places deepens suspicions in society.   It also confuses the liberal muslim to the point of, “Hey, is this for real? Are we supposed to be alarmed at the Swiss referendum results?”.

If the Muslims in India really thought the minaret ban is a fundamental threat to millions of their Indian coreligionists – then I’d rather hear it from an Indian Muslim.

45 Responses

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  1. Arif Attar said, on December 3, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    It would be better for all of us if instead of nitpicking on each and every word of Vishnu’s statement you would see the broader picture. Muslims don’t need minarets to pray or follow their religious practices. But the vote to ban minarets is symbolic. And coming as it does on the heels of the French president’s comments on the veil and the controversy in Germany on building of Europe’s largest mosque and also the Danish cartoon incidents, you can see the increasing friction between Europe and its Muslim citizens and also its Muslim visitors. And I more or less agree with much of what Vishnu had to say on the issue in his blog.
    I believe Vishnu was responding to the question about why should it concern India if the Swiss ban the minarets.
    Did anyone ask this question when Obama celebrated Diwali in the White House and it was a prominent news item in our media?
    This is a response from an Indian Muslim. May not be the most eloquent or the most forceful but at least you have got one.

    • Barbarindian said, on December 4, 2009 at 3:46 am

      Vishnu was not asked why it should concern India, he was asked why it would concern Indian Muslims. Shifting goalposts here.

      If Europeans are preparing to do a crusade, why should Hindus be forced to bear the cost? You guys should sort it amongst yourselves and leave us out of it.

  2. rc said, on December 4, 2009 at 2:22 am

    >> It would be better for all of us if instead of nitpicking on each and every word of Vishnu’s statement you would see the broader picture.

    He is a senior anchor at one of the largest electronic media outlets in India. They use word play for a living.

    Do you agree hyperbole stacks up negative points in the already charged up divisive society ?

  3. Ishtoopidpappad said, on December 4, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Arif Attar,

    do you believe that India can help assuage the growing friction btw muslims and non-muslims in other countries by teaching them our ‘successful secular’ model. or are you concerned that India’s sitting on a time bomb of 250 millions who can take to streets anytime based on what’s happening elsewhere in the world?

    I feel its more civil to decide issues based on vote, even at the cost of upsetting minorities than taking to streets like mad men like we do in India because govt. decides to be ‘secular’ without asking us if its desirable.

    India better fix its own house than worrying about Switzerland. I’m sure Swiss muslims are legally equipped enough to handle their issues. Vishnu should learn to shut up.


    • Mohib Ahmad said, on December 5, 2009 at 1:01 am


      When you say 250 millions, I presume you meant Indian Muslims. Any studies to support that?


  4. Barbarindian said, on December 4, 2009 at 7:12 am

    They are now pretending to be so innocent, but there is something sinister about wanting to create a strong religious structure imposing on a town overwhelming the native religious structure:

    This faith is political in nature and thrives on strife. There was a very deliberate attempt to mock and ridicule, ironically using the liberal ethos of the country.

  5. Ot said, on December 4, 2009 at 7:14 am

    What’s going on here is that we’re being arm-twisted into accepting the extremist Muslim’s worldview that Muslims consist a global borderless nation and anything allegedly impacting a Muslim someplace in the world is a challenge thrown at all Muslims in all places of the world. The ones doing this arm-twisting are not rabid preachers; they are members of our educated “secular” elite.

    I believe we should be concerned about this dangerous trend. It is dangerous because self-fulfilling prophecies are being constructed. It is true Indian muslims aren’t going to riot on the streets today because of minaret ban in Switzerland. But if Barkha Dutts of the idiot box hype up such incidents and scream their lungs off about the “threat to Indian Muslims”, the “reality” they are inventing could very well become the real reality.

  6. Mohib Ahmad said, on December 4, 2009 at 8:01 am


    You may also want to look at that image from different angles: standalone and with the <a href="–001.jpg"surroundings. It is not towering over the church as you suggest. The total height of the minaret is 20 ft.

    My views on the whole controversy in case you are interested:

  7. Mohib Ahmad said, on December 4, 2009 at 8:02 am


    You may also want to look at that image from different angles: standalone and with the surroundings. It is not towering over the church as you suggest. The total height of the minaret is 20 ft.

    My views on the whole controversy in case you are interested:

    • Barbarindian said, on December 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm

      That’s an absurd point, unless the structure actually encircles the Church, you can always photograph it without the Church in the background.

      Did you read about the controversy at all? That particular minaret was the trigger. Did you see and read about that minaret? In a quaint little Swiss town, they suddenly had to go all out and build that minaret in a Turkish cultural center! You simply can not brush under the carpet the passive-aggressive behavior exhibited by the recent Turko-Arab imports.

      • Mohib Ahmad said, on December 5, 2009 at 12:55 am

        Looking at the WSJ image, the minaret appears to be towering over the native structure, which you then use to substantiate the claim that it indeed is. However, that is not exactly the case. I provided two alternative images for cross-reference.

        I did read about the controversy, thank you for asking. Please see my post.

        Since you have already concluded that “Turko-Arab imports” are using minarets in a “deliberate attempt to mock and ridicule” and “overwhelming the native religious structure” through a “faith that thrives in strife”, then good for you. To each his own.

      • Incognito said, on December 22, 2009 at 4:42 am

        >>>‘To each his own.’

        Till numbers add up.
        Thereafter, sharia and Dar-ul-Islam.

        pity the so-called ‘all powerful fellow’ sitting in heaven, who has to depend on such duplicity to gain followers among so-called ‘his’ creations!

  8. rc said, on December 4, 2009 at 9:23 am


    Good post.

    I am dismayed at how predictably this turns into a muslim vs hindu feud amongst citizens. This plays right into the hands of the political interests. If bloggers can be worked up like this, imagine the street.

    ‘Fundamental threat’ to me means threat to a communities existence, identity, or livelyhood. If I were a muslim, I’d be pretty tired of Hindu news anchors interpreting what should threaten us.

    I have in mind a long post for misled Hindus who vent their anger on Muslim citizens instead of at the political chain link fence. I do not know if it is too late for this.

    This grid lock needs to be broken. The only possible way out for India at this stage is to weaken the USP of religion and caste from public matters, most notably benefits. On the flip side, social justice must only be based on evidence and not life stories.

    We should call out anyone, esp the media when they try to play up our differences non-stop and suppress what we have in common.

    Thanks are in order to The Acorn, who noticed this stuff on an obscure Twitter channel.

    • Mohib Ahmad said, on December 5, 2009 at 12:58 am


      Thanks. Please see my response on Acorn’s post.

      No, it is never too late. Feel free to contribute any post you would like for IMB. For contact

      • Jai_C said, on December 5, 2009 at 3:57 am


        Congrats on IM being nominated in the Indibloggies.
        I didnt find your response on Acorn, or on IM. I am a regular reader there. Please point out.

        BTW, if you didnt quite the get the almost non-sequiturish “…social justice must only be based on evidence and not life stories…”

        thats just RC being the good old RC 🙂
        Surprised he could go this long without saying that
        🙂 Right sirji?

      • rc said, on December 5, 2009 at 5:08 am

        He he, Jai C 🙂

        This is the Shangri La that supplies the water of eternal power to our political forces… Ok that was a bit much 🙂

      • rc said, on December 5, 2009 at 5:23 am

        BTW : About the indibloggies.

        A blog that has not been updated since April is nominated for the Blog of the year. They should institute a separate category for rewarding inverted dissent.

      • Mystic Fire said, on December 7, 2009 at 5:48 pm

        Read this gem from Indian Muslims Blog before you even think of contributing to it –

  9. commie.basher said, on December 4, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Vishnu Som’s statement can only make sense if its taken in an islamic fundamentalist perspective.
    All muslims are brothers sans borders, any threat from a non muslim should be fought by all muslims bla bla bla…

    I am wondering why is Vishnu Som saying this and not the Deoband mullah.

  10. Barbarindian said, on December 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    BinaShah (via twitter) (Pakistani Muslim:

    I think European Muslims better realize that if they want to be surrounded by Islam, they should live in Muslim countries.

    But instead of building physical minarets, we Muslims should build symbolic ones with our good deeds, values, and behaviour.

    I sound like a devil’s advocate, but I don’t think it’s a Muslim’s right in a non-Muslim country to insist on changing their social fabric.

    “ooh let’s go to zurich and build some minarets! But I love Islam so much I can’t live in a Muslim country!”

    The day Saudi Arabia allows a church and a synagogue in downtown Riyadh, I will support the right to build minarets in Switzerland.

    No their religious right is freedom to worship, not build minarets. You can’t pray to God without some minarets?

    Please explain how a minaret is a prerequisite to worship. I don’t have any in my room yet I pray five times a day.

    It’s the perogative of Switzerland’s people to decide whether or not to allow them. Too bad they didn’t. Now can we move on?

    You want some minarets? Come to Pakistan. I got lotsa minarets. No takers? Wow, what a surprise.

    What amazes me is how Muslims leave their own countries and then want to turn the West into a duplicate of what they left behind.

    I follow the Sufi line on this one. Minarets, shminarets.

    The earliest mosques were built without minarets, the adhan (call to prayer) was performed elsewhere

    hadiths relay that the Muslim community of Madina gave the call to prayer from the roof of the house of Muhammad

    Around 80 years after Muhammad’s death the first known minarets appeared.

    In most modern mosques, the adhan is called not from the minaret but from the musallah, or prayer hall, via a microphone and speaker system.

    Minarets would look stupid in Switzerland. There. I said it.

    It is always a two a street. Looking for a moderate Indian Muslim who can say it is a minor incident that is neither threatening nor of any consequence, let’s move on. Come on, if you exist, show us a sign!

    • rc said, on December 5, 2009 at 3:27 am

      Wow, what a post.
      Thanks Barb ! I also found your twitter account, cool stuff.

      Why cant this post happen in India ? Is it because the elites left at partition ? I dont think so.

      The problem is the ‘party’ and the socialist apparatus have successfully PROXIED the Indian muslim. We get to hear what the Muslims are thinking from a largely Hindu or Christian secular outlet. On the other side, extremist elements have a field day for exactly the reasons you pointed out. The proxy feeds them.

      MJ Akbar and co are invited only on specific occasions. Besides MJA’s recent focus on how the muslims got the 200 million shaft on the social justice platform will make him even more inconvenient to have around.

      Such proxying necessarily have to take to hyperbole because it is important the subjects think the proxy is doing a louder job than themselves.

      The only difference is the electronic media was a one way street, social media is not. So Acorn stumbled upon the twitter and the editor was caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

  11. Barbarindian said, on December 5, 2009 at 1:49 am

    The above point/counter-point about whether the minaret towers over the Church amply demonstrates the difference in perception. So, exactly how much provocation would a small village require to be abe to justify the ban? Can we contrast this with treatment of minorities in non Islamic countries?

    There is no credibility in the claim whatsoever that Muslims have remained hidden and have not asserted themselves. They assert themselves very visibly, noisily and destructively in UK, Britain, France.

    In India, people were injured and a few even killed during the recent Miraj riots over the Shivaji slaying Afzal Khan issue. During the Saddam execution, many were injured and property destroyed.

    Just because the mainstream media glosses over these items do not mean they do not happen. We do not need to be TOLD, we KNOW. We have lived through it!

    The minaret ban must be seen in the proper context, pretending the problem is not there will not make it go away. The head in the sand approach will bring more death and destruction.

  12. Barbarindian said, on December 5, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Examples of being “positively visible, active and proactive”:





  13. Barbarindian said, on December 5, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Oh, forgot, our own backyard:

    Miraj 1
    Miraj 2

  14. Barbarindian said, on December 5, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Second link broken above fixed below:

    Miraj 2

  15. a said, on December 5, 2009 at 8:22 am

    And you cannot stop playing the role of mediator,moderator.Since you have had your last word(on last count three times) in Acorn,please enlighten us here on your balanced,impartial secular widsom.

    • Barbarindian said, on December 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

      “Since you have had your last word(on last count three times)”


      That dude has some serious superiority complex.

  16. Ot said, on December 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

    >>And you cannot stop playing the role of mediator,moderator.

    I think that is an unfair accusation. I find jai-C the most decent articulator of the leftwing viewpoint. He also impresses me by supporting Muslim/Christian viewpoints without stereotyping Hindu/secular arguments.

    Jai_C, please don’t be disheartened by the negative comments. Keep up the good work.

    • rc said, on December 5, 2009 at 9:39 am

      Ot, Agree about Jai-C (or is it Jai_C 🙂

      I remember the pig-hunter vs rat-eater discussion I had with him. It was a good debate on how to dispose multiple claims to finite benefits.

      a, yes he does try to assume the role of moderator on quite a few occasions. Sorry Jai_C 🙂 Reality is there are two or (three) blogospheres in India. They never intersect each other. Jai_C is one of the few who can be found in all of them.

      I’d say ignore his attempts at playing moderator or wanting to have the last word. It does not bother me a bit.

      • Ot said, on December 5, 2009 at 4:20 pm

        RC, I don’t know how many blogospheres exist out there, but I repeat-visit only the blogs that I find intelligent, sensible, logical, rational, honest, forthright and if possible, humorous. I especially don’t like giving traffic to leftwing blogs (as a rule, they don’t fit the criteria). I vote with my mouse. 🙂 So perhaps I could be missing one or two blogospheres here, but from what you’re saying it’s only jai_c that I’m really missing. 🙂

  17. a said, on December 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    you are unfair to Jai_C.He is not left wing,he is fair,balanced,impartial.

    My last(!) post on this.

    • rc said, on December 5, 2009 at 12:27 pm

      >> My last(!) post on this.

      Eagerly awaiting your next post on this 🙂

  18. Jai_C said, on December 5, 2009 at 2:29 pm


    I have no special talent. and as somebody pointed out, I tried to bow out of the disc 3 times already- really have nothing more to add.

    RC is right that there are multiple blogospheres. Many seem to read across them but very few comment except on “their” turf.


  19. revathi said, on December 8, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Being a swiss and of indian origin I can tell you that the whole controversy was indeed started by right wing groups to provoke minority issues and see the reaction of the left wing. The population fell right into the trap due to some terrible posters and unfounded fears that the whole swiss landscape would be covered with minarets with permanent crescents irrespective of the actual phase of the moon etc etc.
    Also, I disapproved entirely of the manner in which this initiative was carried out- I think that these problems should be sorted out at the local level. The villages where the mosque is to be built should decide whether the minaret has to be built or not. Strangely, the cantons that actually have the most number of mosques have voted against the ban! So you see, it is really not logical!
    Also, there are more than ten hindu temples in Switzerland but none of them even have the semblence of a gopuram and they are extremely discreet. The chance of a decent temple coming up is really remote now if that is any consolation to the muslim population.. People dont seem to object to indecently high rise monstrosities that are being constructed on a daily basis.
    This vote was not good for switzerland and there are going to be petitions from citizens asking for a second vote.
    Should muslims all over the world react? I think people in Europe should react for sure but I am not sure that it is so relevant in countries like India where anyone can build anything anywhere. India has the maximum number of cults and worship places in the world. Buddha and Hanuman statues seem to spring overnight and in no time crowds start collecting and everything gets organised.

    • rc said, on December 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

      Ah ! A perfect report from ground zero !

      • revathi said, on December 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm

        thanks. I feel particularly guilty in not having voted in this election (I thought that the initiative was so stupid that it would certainly not be accepted and so instead of voting like a good citizen, I surfed the net and watched SUN TV!).

    • Incognito said, on December 22, 2009 at 2:50 am

      >>>“Should muslims all over the world react? I think people in Europe should react for sure”

      All the people in Europe or the muslim people of Europe ?

      If the former, does it make sense ? considering that Indians do not react at all when Indians in J&K are driven out of their homes and are living in refugee camps for 20+ years ?
      Considering that Indians do not react at all when they are not allowed to build a temple in the birth place of a respected cultural figure who gave selfless dharmic direction to people of entire Southeast Asia for millenniums ?
      Does it make sense for a person of such Indian origin to expect the people of Europe to react to a democratic decision taken by people like themselves.

      If the latter, it is peculiar to see a person not belonging to that community treating them as one block.
      Understandable if some mullah exhorts muslims all over Europe or world to behave in one particluar fashion forgetting individual preference.

      Peculiar when it comes from a person not of that community, presumably not having in-depth association with that community and not holding influencing power over that community, yet considers people as one block. devoid of individual preferences and individual say ?

      Like muslims are a species expected to behave in certain manner collectively, without exercising power of individual discretion.

      Maybe the result of prevalent discourse in media and society. The result of what the mullahs have strove to create ever since the establishment of islam- a group of people that they can control to further their interests.

      >>>“India where anyone can build anything anywhere.

      Whatever gave that idea.
      may be the long stay in Switzerland.

      In Kashmir indians cannot even build homes. forget about temples of worship. ask the fellows in refugee camps.
      Cannot get a piece of land to rest enroute to a respected place of pilgrimage.
      Can’t rebuild temples destroyed by barbaric predecessors of the people who are now crying foul about ban of minarets in Switzerland.
      Can’t make even temporary structures to comemmorate the inspiring victory of a national hero over an aggrandizing marauder.

      It is people having origins in such an India that expects people of Europe or muslims of Europe to react to a democratic decision taken by democratic country in a democratic way!

      >>>“India has the maximum number of cults and worship places in the world.

      Despite the best efforts over a millennium by marauding predecessors of the present day champions of minarets to change that reality. Despite the ongoing efforts by deracinated secular intellectuals created by british made education system to homogenize
      the people. Despite the best efforts by marxist ideologues occupying academic chairs to change that. Despite the best efforts by capitalist imperialists. Despite the best efforts by Maoist terrorists and evangelical missionaries.

      The power of bharatiya samskriti is still there. Weakened maybe. But yes, still there.

      At the core of these champions of minarets and secularism and consumerism and communism and evangelism in India, may be found traces of that samskriti, if they could discern it overcoming the prevalent notions in society caused by interested parties in media and madrassas, imbibed despite their conscious efforts to reject it while growing up in this kshetra.

      On a different note, should not church spires be banned as well ?

  20. reason said, on December 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    >> Strangely, the cantons that actually have the most number of mosques have voted against the ban! So you see, it is really not logical!

    not logical, Really? wont that depend on things like who had votes, what margins etc?

    • revathi said, on December 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm

      Actually, the voting was very split with cities being more tolerant and countryside being less so. This is surprising since people are not really going to be building mosques in a remote mountain village where the muslim population is, in all likelyhood, very low. So the fears that these mountainfolk had that their village would be swamped by mosques were unfounded and these people reacted not to real fear but to a propaganda. On the other hand these people had also other reasons to fear that their way of life was disappearing – so the fears were multiplied. Whereas in cities like in Geneva, where people dont have a fixed way of life to defend, the climate was much more tolerant. Needless to say, the 400 or so mosques that are already present in switzerland are concentrated in and around cities.
      I am not sure what percentage of swiss follow islam but most of the muslims that live in switzerland are short term residents or green card holders unlike France where islam is pretty much the only practised relegion.

      • ic said, on December 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm

        @revathi :”India has the maximum number of cults and worship places in the world. Buddha and Hanuman statues seem to spring overnight and in no time crowds start collecting and everything gets organised.”

        Will you ask the same question about coming up of mosques, minarets et al. in a Muslim majority country say Pakisatan or Saudi Arabia?

        Come on…India’s main religion is Hinduism…don’t u know this, so what else do you expect ? Do you want the Indians to mutilate themselves to accommodate alien absurdities in the name of rubbish terminologies like ‘secularism’ ? Is the Hindu way of tolerance, mutual respect and freedom not enough for the country’s citizens? Do you want us to surrender to the freaking unreasonable tenets/customs of politically motivated foreign religions like Islam? If you are not getting this, try to learn some history. The Swiss have done the right thing, not caring to pretend to be naive…Non-Islamic nations must take a lesson from this.

  21. revathi said, on December 8, 2009 at 3:46 pm


    I simply meant to say that in India one need not ask for permission from the state to put up these statues- or atleast that these permissions are easy to obtain whereas in Switzerland, it is very difficult to obtain state permission even for churches.

  22. seadog4227 said, on April 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    My only point here is:
    We make movies extolling their virtues
    We sing songs and mouth dialogs with their terminology
    Why don’t we let them speak for themselves and let Vishnu do Shomthing else.

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