North of Berne in an idyllic Alpine valley cowbells tinkle, a church steeple rises, and windowboxes tumble with geraniums. It has always been like this. But down by the railway station the 21st century is rudely intruding and the villagers of Wangen are upset.
"It's the noise, and all the cars. You should see it on a Friday night," complains Roland Kissling, a perfume buyer for a local cosmetics company. "I've got nothing against mosques, or even against minarets. But in the city. Not in this village. It's just not right. There's going to be trouble."
The target of Mr Kissling's ire is a nondescript house belonging to the region's Turkish immigrant community. The basement is a prayer room where hundreds of Muslims gather every week for Friday rites.
And in a case that has gone all the way to Switzerland's supreme court, setting a keenly watched precedent, the Turks of Wangen have just won the right to erect a six-metre-high minaret.
I continue to believe that Islam is entitled to as much (or, if you are a Hitchensite, as little) respect as any other long-established religion with several hundred million followers. I continue also to believe that for the Europeans to allow millions of Muslims to settle in their lands, for half-baked economic reasons (along the lines "jobs Europeans won't do...") was an act of staggering folly.
Please repeat after me: The Diversity Theorem...
The Diversity Theorem: Groups of people from anywhere in the world, mixed together in any numbers and proportions whatsoever, will eventually settle down as a harmonious society, appreciating—nay, celebrating!—their differences... which will of course soon disappear entirely.
"I continue to believe that Islam is entitled to as much (or, if you are a Hitchensite, as little) respect as any other long-established religion with several hundred million followers. "
Why do you believe this? Because it is an Act of Faith in your private church that Islam is just exactly like, poses exactly the same threat to the wellbeing of non-Muslims, as do all other systems of belief that, for want of some other term, we call "religions"?
Or is it that into each life, including that of recently-minted atheists lazily nostalgic for the old days, a little credo-quia-absurdum still must fall?
It is an act of staggering folly not to respect the strength of Islam.