BERLIN (JTA) — Muslims in Switzerland used a yellow star to protest discrimination, irking local Jewish leaders.
Some 2,000 people showed up for the Oct. 29 demonstration in Bern initiated by the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, a conservative Islamic organization, to protest anti-Muslim discrimination. Protesters wore a yellow star sticker printed with the word "Muslim" reminiscent of the one that the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Third Reich. Some protesters constructed a plastic model of a mosque with minarets, which are banned in Switzerland.
Edith Bino, president of the Jewish community in Bern, told the Basler Times that she found the use of the yellow star "so obviously wrong that it could not be taken seriously." And Yves Kugelmann, editor in chief of the Jewish newspaper Tachles, said he found the choice of symbols "simply idiotic."
"It is regrettable when legitimate concerns are raised using false comparisons," Kugelmann told the Basler Times. He said that discrimination against Muslims is a theme that must be taken seriously in Switzerland, "but not in this cheap way."
The choice of symbolism irked Muslim groups as well: Two mainstream Muslim organizations reportedly stayed away from the demonstration as a result.
Nicolas Blancho, head of the Islamic Central Council, defended his choice of symbols, telling the Tages Anzeiger newspaper that "Muslims are treated as second-class citizens and are discriminated against, for example because they wear a headscarf or because of their name when they look for an apprenticeship or are looking for an apartment."
Among the speakers were British journalist Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Booth, who has converted to Islam and wears a veil, told demonstrators she sensed that Bern citizens had glared at her as she passed them on the street.