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Islam museum set to open amid rightwing criticism

The controversies continue in the run-up to Friday’s opening of the Museum for Islamic Culture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, canton Neuchâtel. A related cross-party resolution, “No to the incitement of hatred by a city councillor”, was quickly passed by the city government on Wednesday night. 

The leftwing Social Democratic Party, which put forward the resolution, said it had done so because of Islamophobic comments made on social media by Jean-Charles Legrix, a city councillor from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. 

Legrix, who wasn’t mentioned by name in the resolution, accused the left of political grandstanding ahead of local elections next month. 

“I don’t regret a word of what I wrote in a personal capacity [on Facebook],” he said. “I simply say what other people are thinking – but I dare say them.” 

The museum, which will offer exhibitions, debates, workshops, calligraphy and dancing, had previously been targeted by the People’s Party in a motion entitled “Today a museum, tomorrow a Koran school?”. The party had questioned the origin of the museum’s funds. 

Most of the around CHF4 million ($4.05 million) needed to create the museum, a former watch factory, has come from Muslim women in French-speaking Switzerland, but several foundations in Kuwait and Qatar also donated money. 

Private project

Mallory Schneuwly Purdie, responsible for research at the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society at the University of Lausanne, fails to see an issue with the museum plans.

“It’s a strictly private project,” she told swissinfo.ch. “If the association that runs the museum is free to present Islam as it wishes, in a nuanced manner, and put forward arguments and thoughts other than those defended by the donors, I don’t see the problem. As long, of course, as the funds have a legitimate origin. But I don’t doubt that the authorities have done their checking.” 

The museum says it wants to remain apolitical and show important periods from the history of Islam. 

A second construction phase is planned for the museum property, featuring apartments, a private swimming pool and shops.

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swissinfo.ch and agencies


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