Giving minarets the finger

The Swiss ban on mosque minarets is an interesting decision, because it illustrates the misguided thinking common to most hot buttons: trying to influence a deeper condition by controlling its outward symptoms.

There were only four minarets in the whole of Switzerland before this ban on new ones, so the whole process was bunk to start with. If there’s a reason to not approve a tall pointy thing at one corner of a planned building, then disallow it… but do it for architectural and local planning reasons. In the ultra-conservative world of Swiss building regulations, it’s highly unlikely many mosques with minarets would ever be approved anyway. The rabble-rousers behind this ban put up a straw man, and whoa, did the Swiss ever fall for it.

(Not sure there are that many church spires in Saudi Arabia, but that’s beside the point.)

Like France’s ban on the headscarves in schools or Turkey’s burqa ban in government offices, they’re looking at outward effects rather than root causes. Think of how airports making you take your shoes off, on the basis one terrorist once hid something in his shoe. Or Germany’s ban on drawings of crooked crosses, which has given the symbol glamour among skinheads.

A ban on minarets is a bit like those south seas islanders who wave palm leaves around on dirt tracks and build wooden control towers expecting 747s to appear. This is all going to end in tears…

New train station built… in six days!

I know it’s just a few platforms on a patch of waste ground – but even so, when combined with the complications of merging timetables and pointwork, building a new train station in six days after the Cumbrian floods that destroyed most of the area’s bridges was a real feat.

Presumably on the seventh day they rested.