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OSCE calls for Muslim umbrella organisation

Experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have recommended the establishment of an umbrella organisation for all Swiss Muslims.

In their report, seen by the Swiss News Agency on Tuesday, three OSCE experts who visited Switzerland in November warned that intolerance and discrimination against Muslims had increased since 2001, and were being exploited by “the extreme right and populist parties”.

“Groups like Bosnians and Albanians, who were previously defined by their ethnicity, are now identified by their religion,” they found.

The report also cites discrimination against Muslims when they apply for citizenship or look for jobs.

The experts also warned against increasing instances of anti-semitism on the internet. They praised Switzerland’s efforts to combat internet crime, but said they focused on other problems, such as child pornography.
It is not the first time that the issue of a Muslim umbrella organisation has been raised.

Representatives of 30 Muslim communities discussed it back in 2010, but were unable to reach a conclusion. There are more than 300 Muslim associations in Switzerland, and several umbrella organisations, but none is regarded as being representative of Muslims as a whole.

Two Muslim organisations – the Coordination of Islamic Organisations of Switzerland (Kios), and the Federation of Islamic organisations in Switzerland (Fios) – are already trying to establish a kind of parliament for all Muslims living in Switzerland, the head of Kios, Farhad Afshar told the news agency.

There are thought to be about 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, nearly 90 per cent of them of foreign origin. The largest single group is from the former Yugoslavia, followed by those from Turkey. Much smaller numbers come from Africa, both north and south of the Sahara, and from other places. About 10,000 are Swiss converts. 

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