A sight you won't see in Switzerland - a new minaret.
The action of the far right Swiss People's Party (SVP) to call for a ban on the building of minarets in Switzerland was not originally seen as anything but a rather foolish attempt to cash in on Islamaphobia. Few commentators gave it much chance of getting support. But now Switzerland has seen more than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons vote in favour of the ban. The official government position was that it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world.
The result of the referendum has created a major problem for the country. For the first time the campaign by the SVP has resulted in a rise in hate crimes against Muslims and even attacks on mosques. Martin Baltisser, the SVP's general secretary, says: "This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power."
The Islamaphopobic campaign poster
Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said: "Concerns about Islamic fundamentalism have to be taken seriously. However, a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies." She was quick to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture".
Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims. This represents just 5% of the population and comprises many people of Balkan origin, most of whom are not mosque attendees. Though there are many prayer rooms in the country, Switzerland has just four minarets.
Harmony? A Swiss minaret and a steeple.
A Syrian-style minaret in Tangier
In the aftermath of the referendum, Switzerland has been criticised from within and without. A demonstration outside parliament, had people placing candles in front of a model of a minaret and making another minaret shape out of the candles themselves. They held up signs saying, "That is not my Switzerland,". "We're sorry," said another sign. A young woman pinned to her jacket a piece of paper saying, "Swiss passport for sale."
A beautiful minaret in Chefchaouen
The SVP campaigned unsuccessfully in previous years against immigrants with campaign posters showing white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag and another with brown hands grabbing eagerly for Swiss passports. But their success now is a dangerous sign of the fear of migrants and Islam in Europe. Sadly for Switzerland the result will damage investment, business and the image of the country abroad. It will also increase tension within the various communities. Geneva's main mosque was vandalized last Thursday when someone threw a pot of pink paint at the entrance. Earlier this month, a vehicle with a loudspeaker drove through the area imitating a muezzin's call to prayer, and vandals damaged a mosaic when they threw cobblestones at the building.
A typical Moroccan minaret
Sunday's surprise result also prompted anger and dismay from the Vatican to Iran and Egypt. In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quick to react: "I am a bit shocked by this decision," Mr Kouchner told France's RTL radio on Monday. "It is an expression of intolerance and I detest intolerance.I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly."
Sadly that does not seem likely.