Or perhaps it’s somewhere on the spectrum between fair comment and edgy political satire?
That’s one side of a lantern at what some call the world’s biggest moving outdoor art display – the Basel Fasnacht. The other side – the more offensive side is further down.
I’ve shown you the grotesques, the musicians and the Waggis. But the lanterns deserve a note in their own right. So here they are.
They’re skillfully painted light boxes, pulled or carried through the streets of Basel accompanied by the bizarre bands. By day the images are clear, by night they’re lit up from within.
So the environment is a common theme. BP got a bashing this year for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – Oil Soup (above).
Religious tension played a part in the scheduling of the Basel Fasnacht.
Typically carnivals like this around the world are Mardi Gras – they happen on the fat Tuesday before Lent begins.
I’m told that when authority in Basel canton was taken over by Protestants, they shifted the date of the Fasnacht into Lent to spite the less numerous local Catholics.
Generations later the inside-Lent timing is the tradition here. (And speaking of tradition, the handsome chap on the right is saying he wants you for the Rhyschnoogg -the old guard.)
But what do you make of this lantern? It’s the other side of the lantern pictured at the top.
Citizens recently voted to ban the building of minarets. The state is currently swamped with… four. That’s four minarets altogether. In the whole country. Clearly a major threat deserving of a national referendum.
Basel stadt (city) was one of the few cantons that had a majority to vote against the minaret ban. Which fits with the tolerant approach of many of the people I’ve encountered in the city. So far, so good.
Which made it all the more disturbing to see this anti-Muslim imagery in Basel of all places.
The rhyme in Swiss-German reads:
Muesch jetz mit burkha und burkini schön verpaggt ins wasser yyni wenn scho manne, nundefaane no miesse jetz eunuche aane
That translates roughly as:
Now you have to wear burkha and “burkini” to go to the swimming pool. If you’re a man, holymoly, only eunuchs allowed…
Yeah right. Because those 4.3% of Muslims are taking over! Soon we’ll all be forced into burkhas! Our culture is under threat! Panic!
This 2007 racist poster from the conservative Swiss People’s Party didn’t appear to undermine their rise in popularity. They tend to point to foreigners as the root of all problems.
It’s like the graffiti and quiet comments I encountered in Poland when I worked there after the Berlin Wall came down. Except they didn’t blame Muslims. It was the Jews who were supposedly behind everything and running the country – despite the fact that 90% of the Jewish population had been wiped out by the Nazis. And a good few of those who survived were then bumped off by the Poles after the Germans left. Where were all these Jews supposedly taking over everything 45 years later?
But hang on. Is it not allowed, not politically correct to criticise or ridicule religious groups any more? Sure it is. Go for it. As one of the tolerant open-minded Basler people I know reminds me, it’s good to be sceptical towards religious fundamentalism and fundamentalists.
But I’m uncomfortable with poking fun at local Muslim women, be-burka’d or not, and implying they pose a threat. Seems like dangerous fun to me. The bullying kind.
C’mon Fasnacht lantern makers… It’s time to stop tilting at straw men (and women) and minorities. Pick on someone your own size – like… like…. like Simon Cowell. There you go. That’s you sorted for Fasnacht 2012.