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Imam refused Swiss work permit

Geneva's Islamic Centre will have to find another imam

(Keystone)

The Swiss authorities have barred Geneva's Islamic Centre from hiring a Turkish imam because of doubts over the content of his teachings.

The justice ministry turned down an appeal from the centre's director, whose own views on the application of Islamic law are considered controversial.

Dominique Boillat, a spokesman for the Federal Migration Office, said on Sunday that the decision by the justice ministry backed up an earlier decision by immigration officials.

"Imams who work in Switzerland must defend our values or at least not be against them," said Boillat.

Hani Ramadan, the director of the centre who had sought to hire the imam, has in the past publicly defended the stoning of adulterers and has also said that Aids was a form of divine retribution against sinners.

Last year, the Swiss immigration authorities denied the Turkish imam and his Senegalese aide a residence and work permit. Ramadan, the institute's director, subsequently appealed against the decision.

The authorities can deny citizens from outside the European Union the right to work and live in Switzerland. According to new Swiss immigration guidelines immigrants must show readiness to integrate and respect the Swiss legal system.

Controversial

According to Sunday's edition of the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, about 500 mostly Turkish- and Arabic-speaking Muslims regularly visit the Islamic Centre in Geneva.

After his suspension from work as a public-school French teacher, Hani Ramadan told Swiss media that Muslims living in Europe had a duty to speak about their beliefs even if they offended others.

The courts have since ruled in Ramadan's favour, saying that his dismissal was unfair and demanding that Geneva's cantonal government recognise his status as a public servant and resume paying his salary.

Hani Ramadan is the brother of Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan. The pair, both Swiss citizens, are grandsons of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's now banned fundamentalist party.

Tariq Ramadan has been barred from entering the United States. He has been criticised for alleged links - which he denies - to Islamic militants. Last year the US authorities revoked his visa to teach at Notre Dame University.

He has since joined a British government task force aimed at preventing Islamic extremism.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Islam is Switzerland's second religion after Christianity.
The Muslim community has more than doubled over the last decade to number 300,000 people.
Around 500 people make use of Geneva's Islamic Centre on a regular basis.

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