How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Minaret?


In this country NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) disputes rage over offenses such as shrubs, too high fences, wind turbines and over-the-top square footage.

But in Europe, where everything is always more serious, it's Islam -- or the many symbols of that religion, like mosques and minarets, which has the locals stewing.

We all know by now that the famously neutral and tolerant Swiss (ahem) voted recently to ban construction of new minarets (there are a total of four in the country already), while the French (Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!) have previously banned the wearing of the head scarf in public schools. Next up for French banning: the burqua.

With Europe's Muslim population at around 15 million and growing, you could say they are afraid of..what, exactly?

Let's recall that the Swiss ban was proposed by a right-wing, anti-immigrant party whose campaign posters for the vote featured a Swiss flag covered with minarets depicted as missiles and a Muslim woman in a chador. And French President Sarkozy is accused of using the head scarf-burqua debate to rally rightist supporters.

Given the political mood and public opinion, a new question is now being asked: can design help defuse Europe's Muslim NIMBY paranoia?