Police chief hits at minaret ban

Peaceful coexistence is necessary for good relations between the West and the Muslim world, security conference told.

The minaret of the mosque of the Islamic Cultural Foundation is pictured at Grand-Saconnex in Geneva October 15, 2009. Switzerland will hold a referendum on banning the construction of new minarets on November 29 after a group of politicians from the Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union gathered enough signatures last year to force the vote.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse  (SWITZERLAND RELIGION POLITICS) *** Local Caption ***  DBA05_SWISS-MINARET_1015_03.JPG
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DUBAI // Muslims around the world should be allowed to follow their religious beliefs and peacefully coexist with westerners, the chief of Dubai Police said yesterday as he criticised the Swiss referendum vote for minarets. Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim questioned the ban and the reasoning behind it.

"Recently the Swiss stated that minarets will be disallowed in their country," Gen Tamim said. "They voted for this decision. They behave as if a minaret is a bomb. I do not understand what was the reason for this. "We [the Muslim world] do not want this to happen in our relationship with the West." Gen Tamim was making the keynote speech to security experts at the ASIS International Middle East Conference.

Last month, nearly 60 per cent of Swiss voted in favour of proposal to ban the construction of minarets. The proposal was put forward by the Swiss People's Party, the country's largest political party, which claimed that minarets were a sign of Islamisation. The decision was criticised by the worldwide Muslim community. Gen Tamim said: "If the Swiss do not like Muslims, then why give them visas? If they give them visas, they should let them pray to God and follow their religious beliefs."

Restricting people from following religious beliefs would further widen the gap between the West and the Middle East, Gen Tamim said. Muslim students being forced to remove their veils was another sign of the growing divide, he added. "Muslim women studying in universities of western nations are asked to take off their veil if they want to continue studying," Gen Tamim said. "Such humiliation faced by Muslim women will anger the community. Muslim women being asked to show their face and being humiliated in such a way will motivate youngsters to become extremists."

He said such prohibitions would never be practised in the UAE. "Do you want everyone living here to be asked to cover up? Do you want us to ask western and European expatriates to wear a hijab?" said Gen Tamim. "This type of force will never happen in the UAE and, in the same way, it should not happen in other nations. People should be allowed to follow their religious beliefs wherever they go." The three-day conference will focus on security management challenges faced by the world today.

Gen Tamim spoke about the threat posed to the Middle East by recent tensions in the region, and how to tackle it. In a reference to Iran, Gen Tamim said the threat posed by nuclear weapons in the region was real and needed to be solved. "Safety in the Middle East will not happen unless nuclear weapons are taken away completely from the region," he said. pmenon@thenational.ae