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Switzerland doing little about radical preachers, says progressive critic

60-year-old Keller-Messahli believes that there should be a limit on the number of mosques in Switzerland Keystone

According to Saïda Keller-Messahli, Swiss authorities and politicians are naive when it comes to identifying ties between Islamic fanatics in Switzerland and abroad. 

In an interview with the paper NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday, the founder and president of The Forum for a Progressive Islam called radical preachers “fire accelerators” as they provide the spiritual justification for the use of violence.  She said that the majority of Swiss mosques are conservative and their imams Islamist because of foreign support, even though most Swiss Muslims do not identify with this ideology. 

She blamed the activities of the Muslim World League, led by Saudi Arabia, for the spread of Salafist literature in Swiss mosques and prisons, as well as financing mosques, Koran schools and imams to spread conservative ideology. 

Keller-Messahli, who received the 2016 Human Rights Prize from the Swiss section of the International Society for Human Rights (IGFMExternal link), criticised politicians from the left for ignoring the problem of radical imams because of their priority to protect minorities. She called on authorities to monitor mosques, expel radical imams and prevent their entry into Switzerland, as well as cooperate with other countries and organisations fighting radical preachers. Keller-Messahli suggested the creation of a public register of imams and make it mandatory for them to apply for special authorisation to practice in Switzerland. She also recommended legislation that would curb foreign funding of Islamic institutions, like Austria has recently done.

According to a poll published by the SonntagsBlick on Sunday, 38% of those surveyed say they feel threatened by Muslims in Switzerland. The fear of Islam has more than doubled over the last 13 years. The respondents want the government to take a tougher stance against radical Salafists. A ban on this extreme version of Islam would be supported the majority in the population, writes the paper. Other measures requested include greater control over mosques and their funding, as well as increased surveillance of imams. A majority also wanted only imams trained in a Swiss university to be allowed to preach. 


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