A Muslim association is planning to construct a luxurious mosque in canton Fribourg. The five-storey building will house two prayer rooms, a school, a fitness centre and a swimming pool. Its funding remains a mystery.
According to La Liberté newspaper, the Fribourg Mosques Association is collecting funds to build a mosque on a “pharaonic” scale and the project is “shrouded in mystery”. The exact location and date of inauguration is not known.
“The project is meant for all Muslims in the canton without any distinction,” says the association’s website. According to information available online, the five-storey building will house two prayer rooms – one for men and one for women – on the ground floor and first floor. Classrooms will occupy the second floor while a fitness centre with a hammam and swimming pool will be on the third floor. The top two floors have been described as “investment spaces”.
According to the Association’s website, the cost of the building is estimated to be at least CHF3.7 million ($3.8 million) depending on the location. But its chair Max Corpatau, told La Liberté that it is likely to cost in the region of CHF8 million. He conceded that the appeal for donations, which began in 2014, was still far from reaching its objective.
This is not the first time the funding of a Muslim institution has caused controversy in Switzerland. For several years, politicians have been calling for more transparency, particularly with regard to funds from donors in Gulf countries that practise and promote a fundamentalist version of Islam.
However, current legislation does not allow any official oversight. In most cases Muslim communities create private associations that are not obliged to communicate their sources of funding to the authorities.
Moreover, the Swiss cabinet explained last year in response to a parliamentary question that “it would be very difficult to prevent the circumvention of a possible regulation on the funding of religious communities from abroad. This would require cumbersome controls”.
In the eyes of Mallory Schneuwly-Purdie, head of research at the Swiss Center for Islam and Society at the University of Fribourg, only a greater recognition of Muslim institutions by the state can help free these institutions from foreign funding.
“If we want to avoid in future that these associations are dependent on donors abroad, it is necessary to give them the means to finance themselves in Switzerland. But to do this, they would have to be recognised as being in the public interest, a status that would enable them to levy a religious tax from their members,” she told swissinfo.ch recently.
Around 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, of whom 80% are from the Balkans and Turkey.