Switzerland Unruffled by Qaddafi’s Call for ‘Jihad’ in Wake of Its Ban on New Minarets

PARIS — The Swiss government reacted blandly on Friday to the latest rhetorical sally from the eccentric Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who called on Thursday for a “jihad” against Switzerland. The two countries have been sparring since the Swiss arrested one of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons and his wife in 2008 on suspicion of beating their servants.

On Thursday, in a rambling address in Benghazi, Libya, before a gathering to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Colonel Qaddafi called for jihad, or a holy war, against Switzerland because of its ban on new minarets for mosques and urged Muslims to boycott Swiss products and ban Swiss planes and ships.

“Those who destroy God’s mosques deserve to be attacked through jihad, and if Switzerland was on our borders, we would fight it,” Colonel Qaddafi was quoted as saying by Libya’s official news agency.

Libya does not border Switzerland, however. Instead, after his son Hannibal’s arrest and detention for two days, Colonel Qaddafi recalled diplomats from Switzerland, interrupted oil shipments, withdrew money from Swiss banks and, more controversially, prevented two Swiss businessmen from leaving Libya.

One was released only this week after 19 months in detention. But Max Göldi, an engineer, remains in Libya, serving a “reduced sentence” of four months in jail. Last week, Libya barred citizens from 25 European countries from visiting Libya in retaliation for Swiss travel restrictions on Colonel Qaddafi, his family and his ministers.

On Friday, the Swiss government refused to comment on the latest Qaddafi comments and the call for jihad. Muslims in Switzerland, who are mostly European in origin and represent about 6 percent of the population, shrugged off the Qaddafi threat but were anxious that his words could further harden Swiss public opinion. Last November, Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on building new minarets on mosques.

It “did not shock us, as he often says such nonsense,” Yasar Ozdemir, member of the Zurich-based Swiss Federation of Muslim Associations, told Agence France-Presse. Omar el-Sanie, the director of Geneva’s mosque, told The Associated Press: “In my opinion, this is a purely political matter between Libya and Switzerland, and has nothing to do with Islam or with Muslims.”

United Nations officials called Colonel Qaddafi’s comments unacceptable, as did individual countries, like France. A spokesman for the European Union foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said the comments “come at an unfortunate moment when the European Union is working closely with Switzerland to reach a diplomatic solution” to its squabble with Libya.

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