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“Unconstitutional” Fribourg Islam centre won’t come to a vote

The committee handed in the initiative against the Centre for Islam and Society in July 2015

(Keystone)

People in canton Fribourg will not be voting on whether the university should have a Centre for Islam and Society. The cantonal parliament threw out the Swiss People’s Party-backed initiative to close it.

Parliamentexternal link on Friday voted with a big majority to uphold the view of the cantonal government, namely that the initiative was unconstitutional. But the fight may not be over; the backers of the initiative may still be able to take the decision to the federal court.

The Swiss Centre for Islam and Society (SCIS)external link is attached to the theology faculty at the university and is to offer imams training in Swiss politics, law and history. It opened in January 2015 and is currently in a development phase.

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The University of Fribourg has recently opened the Centre for Islam and Society. It has started offering lectures and seminars for imams, although ...

The initiative, from the conservative right People’s Partyexternal link - which was also behind the recent failed attempt at the national ballot box to enforce a hardline proposal to deport foreign criminals – was launched last summer and had gained 9,000 signatures. A cantonal initiative needs 6,000 signatures to be valid.

Expert opinion

Two independent legal opinions gathered by the cantonal government had come to the conclusion that the initiative went against the Swiss Constitutionexternal link, which includes a section on non-discrimination, because the initiative was aimed at people belonging to a certain religion.

The initiative’s backers had argued that it was not up to the state to offer theological training for a religion not recognised under public law in Switzerland.

The SCIS describes itself as a competence centre for research and inter-religious questions. Lectures have been offered, for example, on Islamic and Christian ethics. It is slated to fully open its doors in 2017.

The centre is supported by several partners including the State Secretariat for Migration in its efforts to develop training for people who come into contact with Muslims during their work, like schools and aid organisations.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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