Gaddafi calls for jihad against Switzerland
Holy war is in response to Swiss ban on minarets - but UN chief tells Libyan president to put a sock in it
Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi has called for the Muslim world to rise up and wage jihad against Switzerland in the latest escalation of a two-year-old row between the countries - and a UN official in Geneva has weighed in on Switzerland's side.
Colonel Gaddafi told a televised rally to mark the birthday of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad: "Let us wage jihad against Switzerland, Zionism and foreign aggression. Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against Muhammad, God and the Koran."
The holy war, Gaddafi said, was in response to a Swiss referendum in November 2009 that banned the construction of minarets on mosques.
Gaddafi instructed his fellow Muslims to "go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbours and prevent any Swiss ships docking". The people of Switzerland, a landlocked country which has been at peace for 200 years, surely had no inkling that things would get this bad when, in 2008, their police arrested Gaddafi's son Hannibal at a hotel in Geneva for allegedly assaulting his servants.
Although the charges were later dropped, Gaddafi hit back at Switzerland by cutting off oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks and refusing visas to Swiss citizens. Two Swiss businessmen were also arrested, one of whom is still in a Libyan jail.
The row went Europe-wide when Switzerland submitted a list of top Libyans, including Gaddafi, it said should be banned from the Schengen area, the zone free of border controls which includes all EU countries except Britain and Ireland.
In retaliation, Libya banned visas to all citizens of Schengen countries.
Today, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the United Nations director-general, put Gaddafi in his place, saying: "Such declarations on the part of the head of state are inadmissible in international relations."
In any case, it is debatable how serious Gaddafi's call to arms will be taken in the rest of the Muslim world. Given that the majority of countries in the Arab world are dictatorships – and Switzerland is a popular repository for the ill-gotten gains of such regimes – his fellow leaders may object to the insinuation they are "apostates".
His suggestion that Switzerland is in league with Zionism is also ironic. Israeli-Swiss relations are currently at a low ebb following the Alpine country's denunciation in November 2008 of Israel's bulldozing of Palestinian homes, which it called "violations of international humanitarian law" – concerns it repeated six months later. ·