On the left: Swiss poster demonizing Islam, to support the ban on minarets. On the right: Swiss poster proclaiming an understanding of Arab culture, soliciting funds for a private bank.
The controversy around the Swiss racist anti-minaret poster was understandable – it’s in the style and colors of pre-war Nazi propaganda for heaven’s sake. But Swiss racism is more complicated than it would first appear, particularly when it comes to money.
Anti Muslim sentiment in French speaking Switzerland in particular, is possibly stoked by irrational fears of poorer French immigrant Muslims crossing the border to seek work in prosperous Geneva from its French hinterland. The reality of Geneva is that it is culturally quite Arab, even if the Swiss would deny it. The world’s most expensive watches and private banking make Geneva a playground for oil rich Middle Easterners, a cliche – but true. and to prove it, these type of Muslims are welcomed at the airport, by posters in Arabic proclaiming an ‘in-depth understanding of Arabic culture’, with little sense of irony.