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Muslim leader wants national umbrella group

The president of a Swiss Islamic organisation has called for a single umbrella organisation to represent the country’s various Muslim groups.

Hisham Maizar, president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, told the Sunday newspaper Le Matin Dimanche that the goal of a single governing body was still far away.

Maizar also said the country's Muslims needed to cooperate with authorities in dealing with radical clerics.

The federal government has also taken notice of the absence of a single body for Muslims. Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has called for another roundtable discussion with different groups.

The meeting will take place before Christmas, a spokesman told the Swiss News Agency. The groups already had a discussion in September about integration.

On November 29, Swiss citizens voted by a 57.5 per cent margin to ban the construction of new minarets, the spires attached to Muslim mosques.

Pierre Vogel, the controversial German imam barred from addressing a rally on Saturday against the vote, told Sunday’s SonntagsBlick newspaper that he himself was against the construction of minarets, which he said were “not necessarily part of our religion”.

Money spent on minarets could better be spent on Muslim youth and on programmes for criminals, he said.

Saturday’s rally in front of parliament in Bern attracted around 700 people and ended peacefully. It was not endorsed by any of Switzerland's main Muslim groups. and agencies