Committee calls for less discrimination for Moslems

Islam is now Switzerland's second religion after Christianity. The Moslem community numbers 200,000. But Islam is not an officially recognised religion here, and the Swiss Commission on Racism says more has to be done to make Moslems feel at home.

This content was published on January 18, 2000 - 08:28

Islam is now Switzerland's second religion after Christianity. The Moslem community numbers 200,000. But Islam is not an officially recognised religion here, and the Swiss Federal Commission on Racism says more has to be done to make Moslems feel at home.

Vice-President of the Commission, Boel Sambuc, says people in Switzerland still tend to think of Islam in hackneyed terms. "We need to inform people more about the true reality of Moslems living here," she says. "This not a homogeneous group, they come from all over; Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East."

Moslems are a relatively new group in Switzerland; they started coming here around 30 or 40 years ago. "This is a very short time in the history of a country, but a very long time for an individual to live without formal recognition of his or her faith", says Georg Kreis, president of the commission.

The commission wants to create greater awareness among the Swiss population of the problems facing Moslems. These range from reluctance on the part of the Swiss education authorities to allow Islam to be mentioned as part of religious education, or objections from local governments to the setting up of Moslem cemeteries.

"Every single little thing we try to do we have to fight for", says Taner Hatipoglu, an engineer from Zurich who is active in the campaign to get a Moslem cemetery there. "But we don't have problems because we are Moslems, it is a mistake to think that; we have these problems because we are a minority, struggling for recognition."

Samia Osman, who is active in Berne's Moslem community, sums up the feelings of many Moslems when she points that the very phrase "Moslems in Switzerland" is a false one. "These are Swiss people whose faith is Islam" she says. "Their home is not Turkey, or Egypt, but Switzerland."

By Imogen Foulkes

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