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Swiss man builds mock minaret to protest ban

Swiss Muslims tell parliament we "are not Hitler"

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A Swiss man built a mock minaret on top of his warehouse to protest what he called a "scandalous" ban on the structure that is associated with mosques, press reports said Sunday, a day after hundreds gathered outside parliament to oppose the ban.

Shoe-shop owner, Guillaume Morand, who is not a Muslim, built the mock minaret as an extension of his chimney and sprayed it in gold paint in defiance of a constitutional amendment approved in a nationwide referendum last month.

“It was scandalous that the Swiss voted for the ban,” Britain's TimesOnline quoted Morand as saying. “Now we [the Swiss] have the support of all the far-right parties across Europe. This is shameful.”

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 far-right Swiss People’s Party, which initially called for the ban, accused Morand of using the tower for self-publicity but Morand insists the plastic tower is a “message of peace and tolerance.”

“Our minaret is pretty. You could say I’m proud of it and I’m happy that people are talking about it,” Morand, 46, said.

Morand said, however, that his neighbors were not pleased with the structure and have "showered him with racist insults," the paper reported, adding since the minaret was erected this week at least one of Morand's neighbors has threatened to demolish it.

Morand also said local police have photographed the structure and have threatened to file a report, which could lead to a legal battle but the shop-owner is not worried and says “I think I’ll just get a letter from a judge. If they give me a fine, I will contest it. There’s no justification for a punishment over this.”

Peaceful religion

Meanwhile on Saturday some 500 protesters gathered outside parliament in Bern to condemn the ban on the building of new minarets, which Switzerland has only four of.

Some were seen with cardboard placards reading "Islam" and "We are Muslims, not Hitler," as organizers from the Swiss central Islamic council, sought to send a message that Islam is a peaceful religion that teaches its followers to respect other faiths.

Nicolas Blancho, a Swiss Muslim co-organizer of the demonstration, told the crowd that Muslims are not seeking to impose Shariah law in Switzerland, the domestic ATS news agency reported.

The minaret ban drew widespread criticism internationally, with U.N. high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay calling the ban "deeply discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take."

The Swiss government sought to assure the country's 400,000 Muslims, who are mainly of Balkan and Turkish origin, that the outcome was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."

Switzerland has around 200 mosques, with just four minarets between them.