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Controversial Islamic centre opens in Fribourg

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The Swiss Centre for Islam and Society was officially inaugurated in Fribourg on Monday following high-profile attempts to block its opening. 

The centre, which is part of the University of Fribourg’s theology faculty, is meant to promote dialogue among societal groups and contribute to debates surrounding Islam. The university’s rector Astrid Epiney told the public on Monday that her institution is proud to host the new cultural centre. 

“Only a society where we can live together and respect each other’s differences” allows people to live in dignity, she said, adding that achieving this ideal is difficult in today’s society and that the new centre can contribute to its success. 

Parliamentarian Jean-Pierre Siggen of canton Fribourg reminded those gathered at the inauguration of the centre that it had generated many controversial political debates. An effort by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party to put the centre to a vote failed after it was ruled unconstitutional by the cantonal parliament. The People’s Party has appealed that decision to the Federal Court. 

Those against the centre’s opening had particularly disliked plans to educate imams there. On Monday, Siggen reminded those gathered that the centre will not offer such education and will instead focus on research and interreligious issues. 

The Swiss Centre for Islam and Society has been in an inaugural phase since last year. Monday’s event marked the end of that phase and its official opening to the public. 

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