Sunday, September 16, 2012

Slovenia Gets its First Mosque

Map of Slovenia

More than five years ago we posted an article about the traditional resistance of Slovenians to Islamization, and the widespread opposition to the building of the country’s first mosque.

Since then the wind has shifted in Slovenia. A new party swept into power in last year’s elections, and Slovenia is now ready to join Modern Multicultural Europe. A tangible sign of the new, more inclusive Slovenia will be the construction of the country’s first mosque.

JLH has translated an article that was published last December in M-MEDIA Diversity Mediawatch Austria. The translator includes this note:

Slovenia, as Balkans-watchers know, is tucked into the northwest corner of the former Yugoslavia, but is not considered part of the Balkans. It has been closely tied to Austria since the days of the empire — Catholic, conservative, more or less minding its own business.

Some will recall that the powerful Serbian army marched through Croatia and deep into Slovenia. The Slovenes quietly armed and stood by until the Serbs decided they could gain nothing by wasting manpower so far from where the war was raging, and simply left. The Slovenes, so far as I know, never had any part in the Serbo-Croat hostilities. Recently, they have gone their quiet way, keeping close ties with Vienna.

Their conservative Catholicism and a smaller per capita number of Muslims apparently suppressed the kind of intimidation and aggressive demands seen from imams in Western Europe. A new government, with “good intentions,” and a policy of secular tolerance may be setting a “kinder and gentler” path to where the multi-culti believers of the West have gone before. It would be nice to think not, but the history of niceness and tolerance for Islam is not encouraging.

The translated article:

Slovenia: First Mosque After More Than 30 Years’ Negotiation

by Amin Elfeshaw
December 29, 2011

On the fifth of December, Slovenia elected a new parliament. The winner was former businessman Zoran Jankovic — an atheist, who is now making sure that Slovenia’s Muslims will have a mosque for the first time. For Tarafa Baghajati, chair of the “Platform for Intercultural Europe,” Jankovic’s victory is a positive example of how politics can function without Islamophobia.

Vienna/Laibach. After more than three decades of negotiation, it has now come to pass that Slovenia’s 50, 000 Muslims are getting their first clearly identifiable mosque. For a long time, churches, media and politics had been in opposition to the building of a house of worship for Muslims. With the new political developments in Slovenia, the wind is blowing from a different direction.

The fifth of December, 2011 will endure long in the memories of many Slovenians. but especially that of new Prime Minister Zoran Jankovic, who — with his party,” Positive Slovenia” — outstripped all election predictions and surprised everyone by coming in first. Jankovic, an avowed atheist, ousted Borut Pahor (SD) as head of state and now intends to introduce a new relationship with Slovenia’s minorities. To be sure, Jankovic maintains a distance from all religions, but vouchsafes them all the same rights. An international competition was advertised for the construction of the first mosque in Slovenia, because Jankovic’s only requirement for a new mosque is that it is architecturally suited to the cityscape.

Election Victory without Islamophobia

Five days before the election, there was a conference of the “Platform for Intercultural Europe,” an organization focused on the diversity of Europe’s minorities. The subject of the building of mosques in Slovenia was presented at this meeting. Tarafa Baghajati, chair of the Platform, was overjoyed at the electoral victory of a party that could win without negative mention of Islam. In a time when right-populist parties all over Europe are making points with hostility to Islam, and this dialogue is expanded by centrist parties, this election was a special sign. For Baghajati, the Islam-hostile electoral mottoes gaining acceptance all over Europe are an identity crisis.

“Economic Crisis Leads to Identity Crisis”

“The economic crisis is coinciding with an identity crisis and there are two possible ways to go: either the way of exclusion or the way of social cohesion,” says Baghajati. He pleads for a change of the debate. Instead of a debate on integration, there should be a debate on social cohesion, which clarifies what rights and duties each individual citizen shall take on and how a unified society could be achieved by holding together and not by paternalistic control. At this time, debates on values are being politically manipulated. “In debating values, the debate on values is intermixed with the debate on lifestyle. The values are clear. They include human rights, equal rights, women’s rights, equality before the law. Those are all universal rights.” In the present values debate, however, (he says) lifestyle is being discussed — private matters like the interpretation of how one dresses, how one celebrates or grieves.

Politicians with Courage

Tarafa Baghajati reproaches European politicians for using Islam-hostile rhetoric in elections. “At election time, mainstream politics in Europe leans toward racism.” It is important to have courageous politicians who are for everyone. He says, “Behold, Ljubljana, [capital of Slovenia] an open policy which brings no loss with it.” Hostility to Islam is not driven by the political group, but should be understood as cultural racism, since both a political and a social statement are being made. “Ethnically defined racism is immediately sanctioned. With hostility to Islam, anyone can act without a care or consequences,” says Baghajati.

The legal principle of equality is threatened by Islam-hostile discourse in Europe. Construction prohibitions are imposed on Muslims This is true not only in Switzerland, but also in Carinthia and Vorarlberg, In Carinthia and Vorarlberg, construction of minarets is prevented by a building ordinance. One cannot call such societies “unified,” says Baghajati. They are not yet mature enough for that.


Anonymous said...

I guess this is where the rubber meets the road.

The Muslim community in Slovenia is small enough, and mature enough, that they apparently don't have incidents like the blowing up of the subways in London. So, it seems reasonable that the Muslim community of 50,000 asks for at least one mosque.

It's a genuine dilemma. The government could view Islam as a hostile force, not worthy of the same respect for religions such as Catholicism or Judaism. But this would put the government into the business of judging religions, and would undoubtedly lead to approved and unapproved religions.

By building a mosque, they allow a major center of political influence, which would provide a fulcrum to press for further Muslim immigration. With more Muslim immigrants, Slovenia would experience the same difficulty and violence encountered by countries like France, Norway, and Sweden.

In an ideal world, I would like to see a tradeoff: allow the building of a mosque, along with a strong immigration law permitting absolutely no Muslim immigration into the country, and immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants and workers, and absolutely no public aid to illegal immigrants.

CubuCoko said...

There is nothing to "recall" about "the powerful Serbian army [marching] through Croatia and deep into Slovenia" - it never happened.

Slovenian militia ambushed the Yugoslav Army in a bid to present themselves as victims of "Serb aggression" and thus obtain recognition.

Can't say I'm surprised to see what they're doing with their "freedom."