A wooden minaret capped in a green cloth stood outside of Founders starting at 8 a.m. Friday.
Edin Fako ’11 erected it to protest Switzerland’s recent ban on the construction of minarets—tower-like structures featured in Islamic architecture from which the call to prayer is made.
Fako broadcast the call to prayer—or adhaan—from the minaret five times over the course of the day. Switzerland had previously banned broadcast of the call to prayer.
Fako said that there are only four minarets in all of Switzerland, yet the right-wing party, which is in the majority, “basically had this campaign where they saw minarets as a threat to their culture, to their society.” Nearly six-in-ten Swiss voters backed a Nov. 29 referendum that bans the construction of any further minarets.
He sees Haverford, with its Quaker values, as a great place to take a stance for religious tolerance.
“To me, it doesn’t really matter that this is happening in Switzerland,” he said. “It’s still a really strong injustice against anyone that wants freedom of religion.”
“A secular democratic nation is imposing a certain religious subjectivity on its citizens,” said Samee Sulaiman ’10, President of the Muslim Students Association. “And I believe that this is a stifling of religious expression and that there are racial and religious undertones to this law being passed.”
He and Frasat Ahmad ’11 lent Fako a hand in putting together the minaret.
Fako posted a thread on the Go! Boards explaining the minaret and his protest, where he received some mixed reactions but mostly positive feedback.
The online Anonymous Confession Boards, however, have been exploding with criticism of Islamic fundamentalism—seen by some posters as synonymous with Islam itself—and anger on all sides. The thread began by criticizing Europeans for being racist. It then turned into an attack on Muslims for taking over American culture and killing in the name of religion.
“I don’t even know if I can respond to that, that is really continuous with a lot of experiences I’ve had as an American Muslim in this country post 9/11,” Sulaiman said. “Comments like that have nothing to do with what we are protesting. We are actually protesting in line with American tradition, which clearly expresses freedom of religion…What we’re fighting for are really American ideas.”
In person, meanwhile, most students have expressed support.
“It hearkens back to when Haverford went down to the mall during Vietnam. I think seeing this stuff on campus is cool, I don’t think we have quite enough of it,” said Will Harrison HC ’10, Students’ Council Co-President.
“I think it’s great that MSA cared enough and took action,” Diane Tracht ’11 said.
“I would not have known about the law without the protest,” agreed Elinor Hickey ’12.
“Yeah, everyone I talked to has been like, ‘What’s a minaret, wait what happened in Switzerland?’” said Mary Lane ’12. “It’s very obvious that’s something’s going on when you hear the call to prayer from Founders.
Dylan Lazovik ’12 could hear the call to prayer from the library. “I didn’t mind though,” he said.
“I like [the minaret]. I have no problem with it being there. My issue is with broadcasting loud prayers across campus,” said Aaron Schwartzbaum ’13. “Basically, if you’re walking up campus, you have no choice as to whether you hear it. It’s loud. I respect faith as long as it’s not imposed on people. If it were any religious group, I’d still have the same issue.”
Jamie Raver ’12 agreed. She supported having the minaret, but said the protest could have made its point in a different way without being so loud.
Tracht responded, “I mean, it lasts for three minutes and it’s happening one day, and it’s making an important point.”
Fako, a self-described religious Muslim, said he has received encouragement from Muslims on campus, but that he has not heard feedback from the community in general.
“I just want people to get upset about this,” he said. “I think it’s a really big issue.”
Dr. President Stephen G. Emerson ’74 and Dean of Student Life Jason McGraw, both of whom Fako checked in with about the minaret, were unreachable for comment.