Controversial Swiss convert to Islam dies aged 35

Illi converted to Islam in 2002, aged 18. Keystone / Karlheinz Schindler

Nora Illi, a controversial public figure who co-founded the Swiss Central Islamic Council (SCIS), died on Monday at the age of 35, after a long illness.

This content was published on March 24, 2020 - 15:21

Perhaps Switzerland’s most widely publicised convert to Islam, Illi often attracted attention for her views, including her support of polygamy and her praise for people who travelled to Syria to wage “holy war”.

Originally from Zurich, Illi converted to Islam in 2002, aged 18, after a trip to Dubai. Prior to this, she had been a punk and had also been interested in Buddhism.

Along with her former husband, Qaasim Illi, she became active in the SCIS, a group which has also attracted controversy for its Salafist and extremist links. In 2017, Qaasim Illi and two other members of the group were indicted by the Office of the Attorney General for breaking the federal law banning support for Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and associated organisations.

In 2006, on the day that canton Ticino enacted a law banning the wearing of full-faced veil covering, Illi travelled to Locarno wearing a niqab to be arrested in front of the cameras.

In 2016, during a debate on the German television channel ARD, she said that the young people going to Syria to fight in the war were demonstrating “civil courage”.

She held the role of director of feminine affairs in the SCIS. Acknowledging Illi's passing on Tuesday, the organisation wrote that she is survived by six children and her husband.

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