Gadhafi Calls for Jihad on Switzerland for Minaret Ban
Updated: 2 hours 26 minutes ago

Lauren Frayer Contributor

(Feb. 26) -- With his distinctive flair for eccentricity, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi marked the Muslim prophet's birthday with a fresh call for holy war on the most innocuous of countries: Switzerland.

It's the latest salvo in tit-for-tat recriminations between the outspoken Libyan colonel and Switzerland, the elite banking hub of Europe that's in the past been a playground for wealthy Arabs like Gadhafi and his family. The fallout began with a brawl in a posh Geneva hotel and escalated into an all-out diplomatic war involving jailed businessmen and the withdrawal of billions from secret Swiss bank accounts.

Switzerland adopted a ban on construction of mosque minarets last year, sparking outrage from freedom of religion advocates and Muslims across Europe. The European Court of Human Rights is weighing an appeal challenging the law. But Gadhafi took the criticism a step further Thursday, calling Switzerland an "unbelieving and apostate" country.

Rick Gershon, Getty Images
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, here in September, has been in a diplomatic war with Switzerland since July 2008, after his son was briefly arrested at a Swiss hotel.

"Any Muslim around the world who has dealings with Switzerland is an infidel against Islam, against Mohammed, against God, against the Koran," Gadhafi said in a fiery speech in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi marking Mohammed's birthday.

In his rambling address, which was broadcast live on Libyan television, Gadhafi urged Muslims to boycott Swiss businesses. "The masses of Muslims must go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking, inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold," he said.

But he also used the word jihad -- an Arabic term meaning armed struggle -- suggesting that Muslims have a religious duty to take up violence against the famously neutral European country. "It is against unbelieving and apostate Switzerland that jihad ought to be proclaimed by all means," Gadhafi said. "Those who destroy God's mosques deserve to be attacked through jihad, and if Switzerland was on our borders, we would fight it," he said. His comments were picked up by several foreign news agencies.

The Libyan dictator said he did not support terrorism and condemned al-Qaida's work as a "kind of crime and psychological disease." It's unclear what type of jihad he was proposing against Switzerland. "There is a big difference between terrorism and jihad, which is a right to armed struggle," he said.

The Swiss government has refused comment. But a top United Nations official in Geneva called Gadhafi's jihad call "inadmissible."

"Such declarations on the part of the head of state are inadmissible in international relations," the U.N. chief in Geneva, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, told the BBC. He added that the United Nations' security in Switzerland is sound and prepared for any possible attack.

Gadhafi's sudden defense of his faith against secular Switzerland has much more to do with politics than religion, however. It all began in July 2008 when his son Hannibal and daughter-in-law were arrested and briefly held in Geneva for allegedly beating up their maids at a luxury hotel. Charges were later dropped.

But the younger Gadhafi's brush with Swiss law enforcement raised the ire of his father, who sought to punish Switzerland.

Later that month, two Swiss businessmen were detained in Libya in what is believed to have been a retaliatory move. One was allowed to leave the country earlier this week, but the second faces four months in jail for alleged immigration offenses.

Gadhafi also cut oil deliveries to Switzerland, refused visas to Swiss citizens and recalled some Libyan diplomats from Bern. In response, Switzerland is said to have blacklisted 188 high-ranking Libyans, including Gadhafi and his relatives. Earlier this month, Libya expanded its retaliation and stopped issuing visas to citizens from many other European countries as well, prompting a formal protest by the European Commission.

Gadhafi has been in power in Libya since 1969. At first he held the position of prime minister but later launched a cult of personality with the title of "Brotherly Leader." He's famous for making outrageous comments, wearing dark sunglasses indoors and having an all-female bodyguard entourage.

Nearly 57 percent of Swiss voters endorsed the minaret ban in a national referendum in November. The move put Switzerland at the forefront of European anxieties over the continent's growing Muslim population. Neighboring France banned Muslim headscarves in schools, and some German states have taken similar action. But Switzerland's minaret ban was seen as the most severe measure.

Out of a population of about 7.6 million, about 400,000 Swiss citizens are Muslim, mostly of Turkish or Balkan origin. The country has about 200 mosques, with only four minarets among them. ... n/19374615