My earliest encounter and mentality of the Swiss people was that when I was about 10 or 11 years old. My mother's friend and whose children she used to tutor was a Swiss lady named Mariam married to a Pakistani.I was always so impressed by the soft spoken, sweet lady, who would make sure that we had cookies whenever I visited her house. She was kind to my mother whom she would give coffee and buiscuits whenever she would reach her home to teach. My mother was teaching privately , would go to many homes to give tuitions, often in Rickshaw , a very noisy transport, when their cars wouldn't come. Marium aunty made it sure that she would be comfortable before starting her lessons. My mother is one of those rare breed who always worked with honesty ,dedication, without any expectation for reward and acknowledgment. She bore adversity with courage and fortitutde, educating her own girls, cultivating solid values of respect for humanity, tolerance and honesty in all aspects of life and even to those she taught. Throughout her life whether as a powerful public representative, a socio -political worker, or a private or language tutor she lived a good life in the sense of contribution and character building of those who were her pupils. Till the time she was in Pakistan, I remember her never short of company from kids to musicians, to poets and intellectuals.
So Marium aunty would also visit us girls to give us fruit and chocolates to keep us happy when our mom was in hospital for a short time. She made it sure that we would be happy.I often sifted through her German magazines, although I did not know German.Her parents who were in Switzerland with her brother, Hanzi who played some musical instrument, I can't remember now would send us home made Christmas chocolates, for which both my sister and I would wait. These were often beautiful dolls or figurines whom we would find difficulty to eat as what should we eat first the beautiful head? As the delicious chocolates melted in our mouths we dreamed of the beautiful valleys and grasslands of Switzerland and her parents in their little home, like magic story from th lands of Hansel and Gretel. Our reality till to this day of The Swiss was that, beauty, chocolates and soft spoken, fine and kind people.
As I read about the 'controversial' vote of the Swiss to vote against the building of minarets in mosques in Switzerland, my heart broke..What has happened to the beauty of tolerance. As someone said that we do not want the skyline to be spoiled by minarets , a symbol of power for Muslims, I think the world has become so intolerant that it has permeated and poisoned even the spirit of the Swiss whom I took as one of the most tolerant. where will this polarisation take us the humanity? What are the limits of 'Us' and 'Them'?
What is racism? Has Europe really come out of the 'racist' divisions that were there before World War 2?
What is the 'new' definition of Swiss? Are Muslims in Switzerland second rate citizens, the 'other' people?
What is democracy really in the minds of the Swiss?
Is this the same phenomenon of anti - hijab in Belgium and anti- burka in France?
There are so many issues that need urgent attention and debate in Europe. So does Europe believes that 'preserving' white race is the priority then what are the values and limits?
Was Hitler wrong in his ideology, minus the violence he used?
Is al Qaeda a reaction, another voice in Europe, the world. I shudder and am in agony at the prospect of 'violent people getting what they want as the only means of communication!