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New religious group campaigns for Islam

A newly-founded Islamic Central Council of Switzerland says it aims to be the main grassroots Muslim organisation in the country.

The group currently has about 500 members and hopes to win a total of 10,000 participants by the end of 2011, according to spokesman Qaasim Illi.

“We were surprised by the increase in the number of new members after Swiss voters approved a ban on the construction of the minarets in November,” he told a news conference on Friday.

There are an estimated 380,000 Muslims in Switzerland, making up about five per cent of the population.

The council, which was formally set up last October, is funded by membership fees and donations, said its president, Nicolas Blancho.

The group represents the orthodox Sunni Muslims and has launched a public information campaign to help re-shape the image of Muslims in Switzerland.

It seeks to win broad recognition among the Muslim community and help institutionalise the Islamic religion in Switzerland, officials said.

In the wake of the anti-minaret vote the group organised a rally in Bern which was attended by an estimated 700 people but did not have the support of any of Switzerland’s main Muslim groups.

The justice ministry did not invite the Islamic Central Council to roundtable talks with Muslim organisations in December.

The Swiss Council of Religions, a platform for the main Christian churches as well as the Muslim and the Jewish communities, told that it would continue to cooperate with the two established Muslim organisations.

Urs Geiser,

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