So the Swiss have voted in a referendum to ban the further construction of minarets - apparently in part because they look enormously phallic. This is just the latest sorry chapter in the story of Islamic-Christian relations that stretches back to beyond the Crusades. The Swiss Minaret issue, however, is peculiarly unhelpful, showing a lack of understanding bordering on the culturally insulting and one that is certainly unlikely to come to any good.
Of course, Christians have been mocking Islam and damaging hopes of reconciliation for centuries. Take this penis-based tale from Joseph de Tournefort (1656-1708), a French botanist who toured the Greek islands and the Ottoman Empire between 1700 and 1702. His account of the voyage was published posthumously for, in 1708, he was run over and killed by a carriage on a Paris street in the 5ème arrondissement which now bears his name. This passage is of interest both to the ethnographer and to the student of modern Islamic relations with the West...
When they [the Mahometans] make water, they squat down like women, for fear some drops of urine should fall into their breeches. To prevent this evil, they squeeze the part very carefully, and rub the head of it against the wall; and one may see the stones worn in several places by this custom. To make themselves sport, the Christians smear the stones sometimes with Indian pepper and the root called ‘Calf’s-Foot,’ or some other hot plants, which frequently causes an inflammation in such as happen to use the Stone. As the pain is very smart, the poor Turks commonly run for a cure to those very Christian surgeons who were the authors of all the mischief. They never fail to tell them it is a very dangerous case, and that they should be obliged, perhaps, to make an amputation. The Turks, on the contrary, protest and swear that they have had no communication with any sort of woman that could be suspected. In short, they wrap up the suffering part in a Linen dipped in Oxicrat tinctured with a little Bole-Armenic; and this they sell them as a great specifick for this kind of Mischief.
(Joseph Pitton de Tournefort – A Voyage to the Levant 1717)