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General News    H2'ed 2/10/10

A Swiss Politician's Conversion: Facts vs Myth

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The recent passage of a ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland has a very interesting side story. A member of the political party that pushed for the minaret ban announced that he had become a Muslim. Outside of Switzerland, the mainstream media has ignored this. Muslims around the world, however, have picked up on this story, circulating it on blogs and on Facebook. In the process, however, the story has become distorted into a fairly bizarre shape, and so creating some confusion. Meanwhile, at least one anti-Muslim blog has picked up on the story. Looking at the comments it appears that some opponents of Muslim immigration want to dismiss the fact of his conversion all together.

Nevertheless, it is a verifiable fact that a Swiss elected official belonging to the Swiss People's Party- the principal backer of the minaret ban- converted to Islam. Daniel Streich, who holds an elected local office and was a long time member of the Swiss People's Party, announced his resignation from his party. He had been a devout, Bible-reading and church-going Christian. Two years ago, however, he converted to Islam. He kept his conversion under wraps. The Swiss People's Party's recent campaign against minarets, however, became too much for Streich. He made his conversion public, and denounced the campaign as a "witch hunt".

The story, based upon a report in the Swiss media, first appeared in the English language at Tikkun Daily on December 4, 2009, with an immediate cross-posting on OpEdNews. After the story broke, it started getting some circulation on Muslim blogs and news aggregation sites. On January 30, 2010, the Pakistani paper The Nation publicized it on its website--with a lot of embellishments. It depicted Streich as a very big, major Swiss politician who specialized in campaigning against Muslims and minarets! After allegedly spreading tons of anti-Muslim propaganda, he had a sudden conversion and now renounced his evil ways:

"RENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who rose to fame for his campaign against minarets of mosques, has embraced Islam. A member of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) and a well-known politician, Daniel Streich was the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and to lock the mosques in Switzerland. The proclamation of Streich's conversion to Islam has created furore (sic) in Swiss politics, besides causing a tremor for those who supported ban on construction of mosques minarets. Streich propagated his anti-Islamic movement far and wide in the country, sowed seeds of indignation and scorn for Islam among the people, and paved way for public opinion against pulpits and minarets of mosques. But now Streich has become a soldier of Islam. His anti-Islam thoughts finally brought him so close to this religion that he embraced Islam. He is ashamed of his doings now and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland."

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This is a complete fabrication. Streich happened to belong to a political party that had a wide-ranging political platform, dealing with much more than "minarets of mosques." Streich did not "rise to fame" on the basis of Islamophobia. And there is no evidence that he's planning to build any mosque, beautiful or not.

Peeling away the distortions, what remains are three significant facts. First, although anti-Muslim sentiments are strongest on the political Right, conservatives can become opponents of Islamophobia. Second, Western converts to Islam seem come from all parts of the political spectrum, not just from the Left. Third, a politician took the bold move of leaving his political party, and putting much of his political and social support at risk, for the sake of his conscience.

The notion that a conservative Christian politician could become a Muslim and denounce anti-Muslim campaigns naturally causes irritation for Islamophobes. For example, a forum on the anti-Muslim site FaithFreedom.org has begun discussing the story. Some of the commentators are dismissing it, since the idea that he was a crusader against minarets isn't consistent with his converting to Islam two years ago.

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If anyone has any doubts, he or she can look at these sources from the Swiss media:
http://www.20min.ch/news/schweiz/story/27286120 (German language Swiss news site, and the source for my original post)
http://www.blick.ch/news/schweiz/sicherheits-risiko-fuer-unsere-armee-134102

 

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Jason Van Boom is a writer, lecturer and consultant. He is a native of California. After having done doctoral studies in European history, he moved to Europe in May 2012, arriving in Germany and settling in Estonia. He currently resides in (more...)
 

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