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Controversial anti-Muslim advert causes outcry

The advert appeared in a number of weekend papers

(swissinfo.ch)

The Muslim community in Switzerland and the Federal Commission against Racism have condemned a controversial advert about Muslim birth rates.

But they have decided not to make an official complaint against the advert, which was placed by a group linked to the rightwing Swiss People’s Party.

Publication of the advert comes less than three weeks before the country is due to vote on easing restrictions on Swiss citizenship for second- and third-generation foreigners.

“Thanks to automatic naturalisations – Muslims soon a majority?” screamed the advert, which appeared in the weekend editions of several Swiss newspapers.

It went on to suggest that the number of Muslims in Switzerland was doubling every ten years, and that they would make up 72 per cent of the population by 2040.

The advert was published by the “Committee against Mass Naturalisations”, which is using the address of Ulrich Schlüer, a People’s Party parliamentarian.

The People’s Party has denied responsibility for the advert, and says it does not finance the group concerned.

However, the party – which is against easing the naturalisation process – did welcome the advert.

“We think this advert is positive because it’s important to inform the population ahead of the vote on September 26. It’s helping us in our campaign,” said People's Party spokesman Roman Jäggi.

Jäggi also insisted that the content was in no way anti-foreigner.

No complaint

The Muslim community in Switzerland has condemned the advert but said on Monday that it would not make a formal complaint.

Farhad Afshar, a professor at Bern University and a leading member of Switzerland’s Muslim community, told swissinfo that it would be better to challenge the advert with political arguments.

“But we Muslims have been hurt by this advert,” said Afshar, who is also head of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.

The Federal Commission against Racism has also decided not to make a complaint. But Georg Kreis, the organisation’s president, said the advert was offensive and should be investigated by the authorities.

“They must find out whether the anti-racism laws have been breached,” he said.

Unfair

According to the Federal Immigration, Integration and Emigration Office, the statistics presented in the advert do not give a fair and accurate picture of the Muslim population in Switzerland.

The advert shows a chart with official statistics for 1990 and 2000, and then “projects” its own statistics for the period up until 2040.

“They say that every ten years you will have double the number of Muslims, so that by 2050 you will have more Muslims than inhabitants in Switzerland – that’s absurd,” the office’s Mario Tuor told swissinfo.

Tuor said it was true that the Muslim population in Switzerland had doubled between 1990 and 2000, due to the arrival of many immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.

But he added that it was wrong to suggest that the Muslim population would double in the next ten years.

According to Tuor, there are now fewer Muslims coming into the country and more immigrants from European countries.

Not first time

This is not the first time that the People’s Party or groups allied to it have caused an outcry over the tone of their adverts.

Last week anti-racism groups reacted angrily to a People’s Party advert against easing citizenship rules which showed a box full of Swiss passports and coloured hands trying to grab them.

In November 2003, the People’s Party’s Zurich wing – the home branch of Justice Minister Christoph Blocher – was accused of running an inflammatory campaign during the run-up to a vote on whether to recognise non-Christian faiths in Zurich, including Islam.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

According to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office:
11% of Swiss have no religious affiliation.
42% are Catholic.
35.2% are Protestant.
4.3% are Muslim.
1.8% are Orthodox.
0.2% are Jews.
5.5% are other religions.

end of infobox


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