“There’s No Place for Sharia in Switzerland”

* Crack me up: Giordano admitted he was “inspired” by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury !

A future courthouse? Christian Giordano wants to generate debate on the issue   

A future courthouse? Christian Giordano wants to generate debate on the issue (Keystone)

A Swiss professor has stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that certain elements of Sharia, the Muslim legal system, should be introduced in Switzerland.


Christian Giordano told swissinfo that current Swiss legislation was “too narrow” for minorities and he put a case for introducing legal pluralism.

His position echoes that of Anglican Church head, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who last year caused a storm of protest in Britain after suggesting a partial adoption of Sharia law there.

“Touching simple-mindedness” was the reaction of the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper to Giordano’s proposal, saying it wasn’t clear what problems this would solve.

“There’s no place for Sharia in Switzerland,” it said. “Special rights for people, apart from in courts of arbitration or associations, have been abolished.

The social anthropologist, who said he wanted to generate debate on the issue, claimed he had been misunderstood. “I was calling not so much for special rights for Muslims but for legal pluralism,” he told swissinfo.

The controversy was triggered by an article Giordano wrote for the December edition of Tangram, the biannual magazine of the Federal Commission against Racism.

Christian Giordano    

Christian Giordano   (Wikipedia)

Legal pluralism

In it Giordano said legal pluralism was a reality in almost all ethnically and culturally diverse societies but was mostly ignored or denied “because it is perceived as a danger to social cohesion”.

Legal pluralism, he added, was more a question of introducing in some areas of the law mechanisms that took into account cultural idiosyncrasies.

“Multiculturalism is not only cultural diversity – it is politically managed cultural diversity,” the Fribourg professor explained.

“It is not sufficient to accept only the agreeable aspects of diversity like food and music.”

« Why on earth would we want a law that discriminates against women? »    

Elham Manea

Social cohesion

Giordano admitted he was “inspired” by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, who in February 2008 faced calls for his resignation after suggesting the British authorities would have to make some accommodation with Sharia for the sake of social cohesion.

Williams suggested there could be a “supplementary jurisdiction” in which Muslims could decide whether disputes – in which only co-religionists were involved – were resolved in secular courts or by Islamic institutions which offered an alternative forum for arbitration.

This angered people who believed in the separation of religion and state and the concept of everyone being equal before the law.

Giordano is explicit, however, that every court has to be subordinate to the state and the constitution.

“It goes without saying that the hierarchy on which the legal system is based must be respected in order to guarantee the legal validity of the constitution, which must remain secular, human rights and the basic principles of democracy,” he said.

“I am not calling for the parallel introduction of such minority laws – that is absolutely not the case. The state will always have the final word. Also, not every member of a minority is obliged to go to these courts – only people who want to go.”

Legal pluralism was certainly not a wonder cure, he added, but it was certainly a better solution than closing one’s eyes to the parallel legal systems that already existed in some European countries and which were applied without any form of state control.

Asked why the law should adapt to foreigners rather than foreigners adapting to the law, Giordano replied: “I think some people – not everybody, but some people – are embedded in their culture and I don’t think you can force them to change their identity.”

Elham Manea    

Elham Manea   (swissinfo)


This argument is rejected by Elham Manea, a political scientist at Zurich University with dual Yemeni and Swiss nationality.

“It’s really presumptuous to say migrants can’t actually integrate because they’re not used to our legal tradition. I mean, why would migrants have a problem with a system that respects basic human rights and gender equality?” she told swissinfo.

Manea, a Muslim, said she also had a problem with the practice in Britain because it led to parallel societies and discriminated against women.

“When it comes specifically to divorce, compare the family law here in Switzerland with the divorce laws in Islamic tradition. In Switzerland women are treated as equals to men – both have the right to appeal and file for divorce in front of a court,” she said.

“In Islamic tradition a man has a unilateral right to divorce his wife without giving her any kind of justification. All he has to do is say the word for ‘I repudiate you’ three times.

“She has no right of appeal. If she wants to file for divorce, she has to prove harm and this is left to the judge’s discretion. Sometimes, even if she comes up with the most solid evidence, the judge thinks ‘You’re a woman – I don’t believe you’.”

“Step backwards”

“So, why on earth would we want a law that discriminates against women while we already have a law here that respects the concept of gender equality,” she said.

“It’s a step backwards and it’s a step that actually legalises the establishment of a parallel society, because according to some Islamic legal tradition a father or guardian has the right to marry off his daughter without her knowledge – and in all Islamic jurisprudence schools the agreement of the male guardian is a condition for the woman to marry. Why would you want that? It’s just not compatible with democracy, gender equality or human rights.”

Manea also drew attention to the various studies which showed that most Muslims in Switzerland didn’t have a problem with the Swiss legal system. “On the contrary, they consider it an advantage – a benefit that protects their rights.”

Giordano admitted that at present no one would vote for legal pluralism in Switzerland. “But I think the debate should be held,” he said. “Maybe in future interest will grow in the issue.”

swissinfo, Thomas Stephen




2 thoughts on ““There’s No Place for Sharia in Switzerland””

  1. We need more women like Elham Manea in this world to bring sanity to the ‘martyrs’ seeking virgins in Paradise. It has to come about as time goes by for Muslim women tio slowly get out of the clutches of the maniacs in the community and lead lives that all women all over the world have the freedom to enjoy without being ‘stoned’ to death.

    The ‘martyrs’ take the greatest of pleasure in the vile deed of stoning women for matters which they cannot defend themselves under the stupid and irrational logic of their religion which incidentally must have been one of Satan’s greatest gift to the chosen one.

    May GOD in all his majesty BLESS this lady for her thoughts and bravery in making such statements which could lead to hundreds of FATWAS against her.

  2. Why is it that the jewish community of Switzerland never caused any problems towards their non Jewish swiss neighbours.
    They never inflicted their religion on switzerland, they like all other swiss nationals did their military service and some even reached very high positions in the Swiss Military.
    They integrated very well into all aspects of liofe and work in Switzerland.
    They didn’t interfere in christian festivals such as Christmas & Easter etc.
    If anybody wishes me a ‘Merry Christmas’ I return the greeting, I am not insulted by Christian symbols as muslims seem to be.
    I am a Swiss national who happens to be living in the UK because of my work etc.
    Switzerland gave my family a nationality which is more than I can say for a certain arab country who stole our nationality, stole all our property, froze all our bank accounts, ripped the few valuables which were on us when we fled from that hell hole in 1950.
    The Jewish population of the arab speaking lands in 1948 was almost 1,000,000. today barely
    six to seven thousand remain in the arab speaking world. We outnumbered the arabs of the post british mandate of palestine by nearly two to one, although our plight was never mentioned by the united nations. The land we owned in the arab world was four times the size of what Israel is today. 60% of the jewish population of israel today is comprised of the jewish refugees from arab lands. Therefore around 75% of these jews from arab lands live in Israel the othe 25% are scattered all over the world. after world war two there was around 100,000,000 refugees why is it that they have all been setteled and the arabs of the former british mandate of palestine were left to fester for the last 60 years as sore wounds by their arab brothers all over the middle east.

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