The “Muslim Kristallnacht” and a Swiss Twittergate

One of the more colorful Muslim figures in Switzerland making the media rounds the past few months is Aziz Osmanoglu of Basel, who was recently on trial for hate speech charges.  The court case was based on Osmanoglu’s statements made to a Swiss TV show, which essentially added up to saying that it was “Sharia-compliant” to beat a recalcitrant wife if she refused to have sex. Specifically, he said, “A man needs sex. That is why he can, as a last resort, beat his wife if she refuses. If not, the man cheats and this is not wanted in Islam.” Strangely enough for Switzerland, the appeals court acquitted him, ruling that he was speaking personally; in other words, that he was acting in freedom of speech and not as a representative of the Muslim community.

While the court of appeals’ ruling is problematic enough, this story isn’t finished. Yesterday, in response to the court judgment, a tweet was posted, allegedly from SVP politician Alexander Muller (yes, from the same party that brought you the minaret vote), saying that “Maybe we need another Kristallnacht…this time for mosques.”  Kristallnacht, of course, refers to the coordinated night of attacks against Jews carried out in 1938 in Germany and parts of Austria. Stay classy, dude.  The press backlash was swift, with the 20 Minuten, and even the generally conservative Tages-Anzeiger, writing articles on the subject.

Alexander Muller
Swiss politician Alexander Muller. Image via 20 Minuten.

After first saying the tweet was a fake, Mr. Muller has now admitted that he tweeted it briefly and immediately deleted it. According to the Tagi, his assertion (later retracted) that the tweet was a fake was a doubtful premise to begin with, as a quick look at his blog and other tweets show other less than savory comments about Muslims. We learned on Tuesday that Mr. Muller may face the same charges – hate speech – as Mr. Osmanoglu. In the meantime, he also risks losing his local School Board seat, which was confirmed today in the Neue Zurcher Zeitung pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I am outraged that people got away with saying this, as I am about Mr. Osmanoglu’s “freedom of speech.” Luckily, it seems that he has voluntarily resigned his local party post, and the director of his School Board says she will consider removing him from his post once the outcome of the penal procedure is clear.

The reasons I bring the court case and its fallout on Twitter on a site aimed at talking about Muslim women in the media are twofold.  First, I find it interesting that in a country who wants to put so many checks on Muslims (minarets, anyone), this guy talks about violence against women, and gets off on a picky point of law as “freedom of speech,” which sets a dangerous precedent in two ways: one, on what is allowed to be said about Muslim women; and two, how Muslim men are allowed to talk about Muslim women, when usually they are demonized for everything they do. Why the free pass this go around? Which is also personally why I think it could be argued that on some level people accepted his words as “how Muslim men think.”  Which leads me to my second point, namely that Mr. Osmanoglu was put on a TV show as some sort of Sideshow Muslim Bob, and despite the court saying he was speaking as a private citizen, the backlash on Twitter shows that his statements – about Muslim women – were taken to be Muslim dogma by the general public and the general public responded in kind with their own commentary about Muslims. In the case of Mr. Mueller, rather than taking a stand for violence against women, he instead chose to use the Osmanoglu case to take another cheap shot at Islam and Muslims.

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