Switzerland is promoting dialogue with the Muslim world as it comes to terms with the electorate’s decision six months ago to ban the construction of new minarets.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
For many people, November 29, 2009 came as a shock, when a majority of voters accepted the new legislation, and the vote has been seen as a “wake-up” call.
“People are beginning to speak about Islam in Switzerland, which wasn’t really the case before,” said Saïda Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for a Progressive Islam.
“Even if I don’t agree with the result, which damages religious freedom, this vote showed the existence of a large uneasiness about Islam and a series of false images about the religion and those who believe in it.”
“It has encouraged debate and has, through the media, provoked discussion on problem issues.”
Political scientist Ahmed Benani from Lausanne shares this view. “The importance of Islam in Switzerland has been a discovery for a majority of citizens who are wondering how to live together with those who now form the second-largest religion in the country.”
Keller-Messahli claims that those taking part in the debate at present do not represent the majority of Muslims in Switzerland.
“Islamic associations represent only about 15 per cent of the Muslim population in Switzerland. But the big silent and liberal majority of this population is not organised. The authorities therefore do not know who to talk to other than representatives of the Islamic organisations.”
Keller-Messahli says her association represents some of the critical voices. “The problem is that the silent majority does not want to lay itself open.”
“The very different ways of Muslims are difficult for the authorities to cope with. But they can be very rewarding. Islam is not a monolith.”
She also points out that many Muslims in Switzerland voted in favour of the ban on the construction of new minarets in Switzerland.
Source: SwissInfo (English)