The following are excerpts from a TV debate with Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, and Swiss MP Oskar Freysinger, on the Swiss ban on building minarets. The debate aired on Al-Jazeera TV on December 8, 2009.
Azzam Tamimi: This referendum exposed the huge chasm between the Swiss people and the Swiss political, ideological, and religious elites. The Swiss people are drowning in ignorance. This ignorance was exploited by the neo-Nazis...
Interviewer: Neo-Nazis like whom? Like our guest?
Azzam Tamimi: Yes, just like Oskar.
Interviewer: Our guest is a neo-Nazi, you mean?
Azzam Tamimi: Oskar is the new Hitler of Europe. I was talking today with a friend in Switzerland, and he told me that Oskar's origins are in Austria, just like Hitler's. He presents a threat to the future of Switzerland and Europe. The Swiss people should be wary of the likes of him. The Nazis of the past led Europe into a destructive war – World War II – causing its complete destruction, and these people too will bring about complete destruction.
Oskar Freysinger: We don't stick our noses in what the Muslims do in Saudi Arabia, for example, where the [building] of churches is prohibited. We have never seen Swiss people talking in derogative terms about this, because we know that this is the situation there. Those are the laws of that country, and if I, personally, were to go there, I would accepts that, and refrain from calling to build churches. This is not in keeping with the culture of that country, and I would adjust to that. If I wanted to pray there, I would do it in my home. In Europe, we view faith as a personal matter.
Azzam Tamimi: He belongs to a movement that wants to prevent the Islamization of Europe, and has chosen the minaret as a symbol. It is true that the minaret is not the main thing. The mosques...
Interviewer: What's wrong with preventing the Islamization of Europe? Are they not entitled to live their lives according to their culture? Why do you want to Islamize Europe? Some people say that you would like to impose darkness on Europe.
Azzam Tamimi: They use the slogan of "Islamization of Europe" in order to persecute the Muslims in Europe. No Muslim is Europe is trying to impose Islam on the non-Muslims. All that the Muslims in Europe want – and I've been living in Europe for decades... The only thing we want is to enjoy the fruits of democracy, about which these people have been bragging since the dawn of history.
They want to create a transformed Muslim in Europe – a Muslim who does not belong to Islam, is not proud of it, and does not support its causes. His movement is closely tied to Zionism. They are furious that Muslims everywhere support the Palestinian cause, which is the corner stone. Because the Muslims in Europe have developed their awareness to the point that they fight the Zionist enterprise, and Oskar belongs to a Zionist-Christian movement that wants to support Israel... Just like Hitler collaborated with Zionism until 1939, like the renowned Israeli historian Israel Shahak says, the are collaborating with Zionism, which wants to weaken the Muslims, and to destroy their existence throughout Europe.
Interviewer: You have entered a cultural war, a clash of civilizations, with the Muslims through this referendum, and you will bear the consequences, like Libyan leader Mu'ammer Qadhafi said.
Oskar Freysinger: I believe that when a people expresses its opinion, through the majority, this serves as an example of democracy for the world. This is what happened in Switzerland.
Azzam Tamimi: This logic is used to convince the ignorant. Unfortunately, there is great ignorance which leads to fear...
Interviewer: Is it conceivable that more than 57% of the Swiss people are ignorant?
Azzam Tamimi: Yes. The Westerners must decide whether they want their countries to be democratic, and everybody to accept the principles of democracy, without comparing them to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, or any other country... Most of the Arabs and Muslims who immigrated to Europe were fleeing from persecution, because they were not being treated as human beings in their countries. They went to Switzerland, Britain, and other countries, because these were oases of freedom. Has this freedom become the monopoly of the [Europeans]?! They don't want us to enjoy the same measure of democracy? Who gave them the right? What is the logic behind this?
This kind of referendum is a crime against democracy. If the founding fathers of democracy were resurrected from their graves, they would pull their hair out, and commit suicide again, when they saw the Swiss holding a referendum on something like this. This is unacceptable, both democratically and humanely. The movement this man represents constitutes a minority, but it is influential, and it is supported by the Zionists...
Interviewer: A minority that wins 57% of the votes of the Swiss?!
Azzam Tamimi: Yes, they are a minority, but they have huge [propaganda] machinery, with great resources. They mobilize this machinery, and turn the ignorant people into a laughing stock.
They portray Islamic law as a bogeyman. If they learned Islam, they would accept it passionately. Islam saves them from the tragedy of their lives. The Europeans are wretched people. A man goes to work early in the morning, and returns home drunk, to have dinner in front of an entertainment show on TV, and then he goes to sleep, only to wake up early in the morning, and so the story repeats itself. All this so he can pay taxes to this country, in which the Europeans lead a life of stupidity. Islam liberates them. Islam gives their lives a meaning. If they don’t want to accept Islam, that is their right, but how can they prevent us Muslims from living our lives as Muslims, in places they call "oases of democracy"?
Oskar Freysinger: Al-Tamimi offended me many times by comparing me to the worst animal that ever walked the face of the earth – Adolf Hitler. This is terrible as far as I am concerned. I would like to remind Mr. Al-Tamimi of the historical facts. One of the leading allies of Hitler was the Mufti of Jerusalem – not Switzerland.
Azzam Tamimi: These people live in darkness and fear the light. They fear Islam. They fear that if they learned Islam, if they understood it, they would reconcile with it. There is historical animosity, ignited by the churches of the Middle Ages, which led to the Crusades and continued with Colonialism. These people want to maintain this animosity. The light of Islam disperses this animosity: Either people coexist with Islam, or else, they convert to it, and thus we are saved. They do not want Islam to save the peoples.