Mohamed Hamdaoui, inset, a journalist and left-wing Social Democratic Party representative for the city of Biel and the Bern cantonal parliament, recently ruffled Christian feathers when he posted a picture on his Facebook page of a religious slogan on the side of a public transport vehicle.
He said he was really angry and:
I feel my fight for secularism will grow.
Hamdaoui, according to this report:
Is not in the habit of staying silent. He is well known in French-speaking Switzerland for his criticisms of Islamist movements, in Switzerland and elsewhere.
This, of course, has not endeared him to hardline Muslims, but his criticism of the public transport ads has now put him at odds with Christian fanatics, in particular with the the Egerkingen Committee, an outfit ressponsible for the successful initiative against the construction of new minarets, approved by Swiss citizens in 2009.
The committee said in a Facebook post:
The Muslim Social Democratic city councillor wants to ban Christian ads from public spaces. Recognise the signal: this is how infiltration begins.
The committee later retracted its post and apologised to Hamdaoui. But, according to this report (in French) he said he is not prepared to turn the other cheek and intends to sue the Egerkingen Committee for defamation and incitement to racial hatred.
Hamdaoui also received a lot of flack on social media sites for the opposition to the Christian campaign, but the Socialist party of Biel in Bienne is standing by him. It denounced the committee’s message, which it said incited “hatred and deceit” against an elected official, known throughout Switzerland for his stance against all religious fundamentalism, whatever its stripe.
The agency that placed the ads – Agency C – said:
We denounce the hateful comments against anyone who criticises our campaigns. On the other hand, we understand that many inhabitants of our country are saddened by the declarations of this politician, because of their attachment to the Bible and the hope it offers.
Agency C, which has organised and financed such campaigns across Switzerland for the past 20 years, rejects the accusation of proselytising. Its President, Peter Stucki, said in a written statement:
Agency C has set itself a mission of making known the riches contained in the Bible. None of our campaigns recruit anyone for a movement or religious community.
Is the campaign so innocent? Certainly not, says Philippe Borgeaud, a religious historian at the University of Geneva:
By posting ‘May the Lord bless you’, the display does not invite reflection, but manifests action toward its viewers. Personally, I find it unbearable. It’s like a witch cast a spell on me.