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Zurich mosque seeks new imam

Unlike here in Geneva, Swiss Muslims don't always have an imam to lead their prayers Keystone Archive

A Zurich mosque has been desperately seeking an imam to lead its prayers for months, but as yet, has had no takers for the job.

This content was published on January 20, 2005 - 19:13

The ideal candidate would be able to speak Arabic and German, have an extensive knowledge of Islam as well as theological training.

The mosque would also prefer that the new imam has a European background or has lived in Europe for a considerable amount of time.

Leading the search for someone to preside over the mosque in Rötelstrasse is Ismail Amin, president of the Islamic Foundation Zurich. He told swissinfo that the new imam would have to deal with an ethnically mixed congregation.

“About 2,000 worshippers regularly attend our mosque and they are mostly from North African countries, Syria, Turkey and Bosnia,” said Amin.

The new imam would be required to lead prayers, which take place five times a day, and to give a Friday sermon. He would act as the centre’s figurehead and be expected to welcome official delegations.

Amin says there are people who could fill the position but that wages could be an issue. “The job is full-time and very badly paid,” he explained.

Men only

And women are excluded from the job.

“Only a man can become an imam – this is prescribed in the Sunnah [teachings from the life of Prophet Muhammed],” said Amin.

In the meantime, an interim imam has taken over the reins, since the last imam, Youssef Ibram, left at the end of 2004.

The temporary imam, a Libyan engineer, is doing a good job, says Amin. However, he is only willing to hold the fort until a proper replacement is appointed.

The president is meanwhile relying on word of mouth to find a suitable candidate.

Training

In the future, it could be easier to fill such a vacancy, if plans to educate imams in Switzerland are realised.

Last year, Swiss churches called for imams to undergo training in the country. The idea was well received in some circles and Basel University has been looking into the issue.

Amin greeted the prospect of courses being offered in Switzerland, but said it was likely to be difficult to get such a project up and running.

“Of course, it would be ideal [to offer courses in] Islamic psychology, law, philosophy... but it will probably only happen in smaller cities like Bern, Basel and Lucerne,” he said.

Meanwhile, the search goes on, providing the interim imam cannot be persuaded to take on the mantle permanently, says Amin.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

There are more than 300,000 Muslims in Switzerland.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the country.

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In brief

The mosque in Zurich’s Rötelstrasse has been without an imam since the end of 2004.

It is searching for a replacement, while an interim imam holds the fort.

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