Switzerland: Young converts could pose national security threat

Switzerland: Young converts could pose national security threat

Some young Swiss converts to Islam are a potential threat to the country's security, according to the head of the Migration Office.

Alard du Bois-Reymond was speaking about the Central Islamic Council (IZRS), founded by young converts in the western town of Biel. The group strongly denies his assertion.

Du Bols-Reymond told the German-language newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that such converts include people who want a "radically different society" and pointed to examples in Britain and Germany where such demands had provided "fertile ground for potential terrorists".

The IZRS was also the subject of a recent highly critical article in the German-language magazine Weltwoche, which described its leader, Nicolas Blancho, as "the most dangerous Islamist in Switzerland".

It described his preaching based on the strict form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia and quoted examples of intolerance towards women and non-Muslims.

One of the IZRS's long term aims is certainly to establish schools where conflicts that some Muslims currently face in public schools – such as obligatory swimming lessons for girls at mixed primary schools – would not arise.

But the accusations of terrorism are roundly rejected by IZRS spokesman, Qaasim Illi. There is no parallel with converts in other countries who have been involved in terrorist acts, he told swissinfo.ch.

"Those converts, did they speak in public, did they work for some kind of ideal or political aim which they discussed in public? Of course not.

"And that's the point: they are people who went to some sort of back street mosque, far away from the media. We are just the opposite: from the beginning we said we would address the public. Our methods are based on the rule of law, not on terrorism," he said.

The IZRS was set up shortly before the Swiss people voted to ban the construction of minarets last November. In the wake of a highly effective anti-minaret campaign, some traditional Muslim groups wondered if they had been too reticent about presenting their position.

The aim of the IZRS, Illi explained, is to gather Swiss Muslims together to make them "politically capable" of confronting future votes on issues concerning Islam, such as a ban on headscarves or burkas.

Denying Weltwoche's accusations that the IZRS wants to introduce Muslim sharia law – a law that "has a place only in an Islamic state or system" - he said that Switzerland is a liberal democratic state with the principle of pluralism.

"We are asking for our rights, but we respect others' rights too. A Muslim woman in this country who doesn't want to wear the headscarf doesn't have to. In this system she can even decide to convert to Christianity. Everything this system allows is possible.

"And the system allows us to be as we want. We can grow a beard, we can wear the clothes we want, and we expect to be recognised and not to be portrayed as terrorists."

But the IZRS is a controversial organisation both inside and outside the Swiss Muslim community. Saïda Keller-Massahli of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, told Weltwoche that although Illi and Blancho present a friendly and civilised face to the public, they are dangerous.

"They are luring young Muslims and non-Muslims who are looking for clear guidelines," she said, describing them as people who need to see the world in black and white.

"The council is spreading a dangerous ideology, which is not consistent with the Swiss constitution."


Source: SwissInfo (English)

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