Switzerland: Muslims are welcome, if they're integrated and unobtrusive

Switzerland: Muslims are welcome, if they're integrated and unobtrusive

68% think you can be Swiss and Muslim, but 40% think that Islam isn't compatible with the values of a Swiss democracy. There are 8% out there who must think you can be Swiss and Muslim provided you're not Muslim.


Muslims have a place in Switzerland, provided they're integrated and unobtrusive, according to a survey by the MIS Trend institute for 24 Heures. Muslims have a neutral image - neither good, nor bad. They get better marks in Swiss French area (39% very or fairly good) than in the Swedish German area (29%). Unsurprising, right-wing voters are more reserved (21% favorable) than those from the center (28%) or left-wing (45%). Women are more distrustful than men.

A very large majority of respondents (68%) said that it's possible to be a real Swiss and Muslim at the same time. 60% think that Islam should be treated in the same way as the Christian religions. Yet, the Vaud canton constitution doesn't grant official status to Islam, unlike Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism.

Generally well accepted, Islam in Switzerland raises some doubts. First, a large minority (40%) think that Islam isn't compatible with the values of a Swiss democracy. And then, while Muslim communities aren't seen as a threat for state security (63%), 49% of respondents think that Islam more easily leads to extremism than other religions (41% disagree).

Marie-Hélène Miauton, the manager of MIS Trend says that the results are "very reasonable. Very Swiss." She says there's no lack of awareness regarding Islam, but there's concern about extremism. For the rest, the message is essentially: Muslims are free to live their faith, but they must integrate.


A plurality of respondents (46%) think that it's better that new mosques in Switzerland won't have minarets. 32% support building a tower, but without a muezzin or loudspeakers for the call to prayer, while 7% accept that Muslims can be called to prayer. 15% have no opinion.

Four mosques currently have a minaret (Geneva, Zurich, Winterthur and Wangen bei Olten in the Solothurn canton). None makes the call to prayer.

Similarly to the general perception of Muslims in Switzerland, the debate about building minarets shows greater resistance in the German-speaking areas (48% against, 38% for, 14% no opinion) than in the French-speaking areas (38% against, 42% for, 20% no opinion).

Another split is the one between the Left and Right: 69% of those who seem themselves as right-wingers don't want minarets in Swiss mosques, while 53% of leftist voters say they favor it. A plurality of Christians (46% vs 39%) say that the minaret is an unwelcome competition to the steeple.

The headscarf

We thought the debate less polarized then in France, but also in Switzerland, the headscarf is divisive. A majority opposes the headscarf in school for Muslim students (50% against, 45% for).

A plurality of respondents (49% vs 45%) agrees that Muslim women can wear the headscarf at work when they're in contact with the public (saleswomen, for example).

On the issue of the headscarf, women are generally more open than men. The German-speakers are more tolerant than the French speakers (60% against the headscarf in school!). Without a doubt, they are influenced by the French debate on the headscarf in school, says Marie-Hélène Miauton.

Swiss Germans are certainly more sensitive to the security problems posed by the Muslim presence in Switzerland. On the other hand, they are very rational about issues relating to lifestyle.

Exemptions from Swimming Classes

There's almost full agreement on exemptions from swimming classes. 85% of the respondants oppose it, while only 10% accept that Muslim students can get an exception. There's no split on this issue, neither by linguistic regions (identical proportions for French and German speakers) or by politics. 90% of right-wing respondents say students should all be treated equally, a view shared by 83% of center and left-wing respondents.


Should imams be trained in Switzerland in a state program? 68% say no. The proportion of opponents is similar for German-speakers (69%) and French-speakers (65%). The rejection varies only by politics: 80% among the right-wing respondents, 68% for the center, and 55% for the left-wing.

Obviously, the Swiss want to avoid state intervention, for both the issues of secularism and religious neutrality.

Imams from abroad don't always speak the national languages. A large majority of respondents (74%) say that imams should at least master the language of the area where they preach. German-speakers (76%) slightly outnumber the French-speakers (68%).

This desire is expressed by all political leanings - with slight variations - 79% of the right-wing, 74% of the center, 75% of the left-wing and 67% by those who say they're apolitical.

Source: 24 Heures (French)

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