The Islamic Human Rights Centre (IHRC), a local civil society organisation, has labeled the recent move by Switzerland to ban construction of new minarets on mosques as an affront on Islam. Minarets are distinctive architectural features of mosques- that provide a visual focal point, from which Muslims are called to pray (known as adhan). Abdul Karim Kaliisa, the executive director of IHRC, told a symposium at Hotel Africana last week that the decision is likely to create more tension between Muslims and Christians in the world and it ought to be rescinded. It targets Muslims and all peace loving people and it violates the fundamental freedom of worship, he said. Kaliisa added that the decision could have been motivated by the fact that Muslims are now looked at as terrorists, a view he said was mainly perpetuated by the Western media. In a November 2009 referendum, a constitutional amendment banning the construction of new minarets was approved by 57.5% of the participating voters in Switzerland. Many Swiss people had said that the minaret was a symbol of political Islam and were apprehensive about it. However, the move was condemned by some countries in Europe, notably Turkey. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, said recently: Mosques are our barracks, domes our helmets, minarets our bayonets, believers our soldiers. This holy army guards my religion. On his part, the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gadaffi, said last month that banning the building of new minarets [by Switzerland] was an invitation for Al-Qaeda to launch attacks in Europe. They pretend they are fighting Al-Qaeda and terrorism whereas in fact they have just rendered it the greatest service, he said, referring to Switzerland with disdain as the mafia of the world. Dr. Byaruhanga Rukooko, a Human Rights scholar based at Makerere University, told the symposium that there is need for religious co-existence. Minarets have existed for a long time. Even some churches have them. I do not see any reason why Switzerland should ban them, Rukooko said. Omar Kalinge Nyago, a political commentator and the spokesperson of JEEMA, said many countries in Europe are fearful of the expansion of Islam. That is why in France they banned women from wearing headscarves, he said.