1. Political institutions play a role in the way politics are made: We would generally assume that the Swiss rules on referendum and voter initiative on the one hand is another veto point in the political process (i.e. it makes it harder to pass political decisions). On the other hand popular initiative and easy access to calling referendums also open for issues that the political elite would prefer to keep off the political agenda get on the agenda. So, more issues are politicised but less decisions passed.
2. There seems to be a relatively clear ethnic cleavage in the voting on the anti-minaret proposal: The French-speaking parts of Switzerland were less enthusiastic about banning minarets than the German-speaking parts. Now, if I remember correctly, this pattern was also seen in relation to UN membership, trade agreements with the EU and immigration policies in general. Geneva and St. Gallen may be in the same country, but they are very different places.
3. Democracy and individual rights are two different things: It is perfectly possible for a majority to vote against basic individual freedoms. Political theorists have been struggling with this issue since Locke.
4. As Norman Geras has pointed out, the campaign rests on the assumption that opposition to one form of unjustified discrimination (in particular the treatment of women in Muslim culture) is an acceptable argument to uphold another (discrimination of Muslims). But no matter how we twist or turn this, the calls for the banning of minarets and mosques (and even gender equality arguments) are proxies for a general anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.
5. The campaign of the SVP is almost perfectly mirrored by a campaign by the Danish People’s Party to prevent the building of a mosque in Copenhagen. Note that DF also wants to use referendums as a means to block the building of mosques (which, rather than the minarets, is the real issue) – however the different constitutional rules makes the DF strategy much less likely to succeed.
6. A ban on minarets raises some intriguing judicial issues. If I’m correctly informed, Switzerland like Denmark does not have a constitutional court or (unlike Denmark) rules allowing for courts to repeal unconstitutional courts, so there will be an conflict between the freedom of religion and the proposed legislation. Then there is the issue about national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights. For a discussion, look here). At this point we may also remember that parties like SVP and DF often hold a negative view of international law.
(This is a slightly different issue, but if we look at the UN system, I will just note that countries with a – to say the very least – questionable human rights record like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China are represented in the UN Human Rights Council. Needless to say, this is a problem for the UN).
Oh, and as we all know, the Russians have been trying to invade Denmark since the 1880s.