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D 21 January 2022   


D 10 March 2021   


December 2020: Website of information on Islam and Muslims in Switzerland
A website of information on Islam and Muslims in the Swiss context has been set up by the Centre Suisse Islam et Société (...)

  • December 2020: Website of information on Islam and Muslims in Switzerland

A website of information on Islam and Muslims in the Swiss context has been set up by the Centre Suisse Islam et Société of the University of Fribourg, Islam&Society.
It is divided into two main sections: one on Muslim women and Muslims in Switzerland (socio-demographic data, history of presence, Muslim organisations and public debates) and a second thematic section with information on Muslim social action, chaplaincy, gender-sexuality, discrimination, youth, imams, media and radicalisation.

  • June 2020: Anti Burqa Initiative rejected by the Swiss Parliament

The National Council has just decided on a popular initiative (Switzerland being a direct democracy) in 2017 aimed at banning face coverings in public spaces, launched at the federal level by the Egerkingen Committee. This group was also behind the initiative against the construction of minarets, accepted by the Swiss people in 2009. In September 2019, the Council of States rejected the initiative now known as “anti-burqa”. In June 2020, the National Council, the second parliamentary body, also said it was against the initiative. It will now be up to the people to decide on this matter.

The debate is structured mainly around wearing the burqa or the niqab, as the draft law provides to have it stated in the Constitution that “no one can force a person to hide their face on the grounds of gender”. However, the initiative also targets other forms of concealment, such as hooligan hoods. Notwithstanding, a number of exceptions are granted for situations related to security, climate reasons, local customs or health, to name but a few. This last point will avoid the risk of a ban on the wearing of health masks, which became of importance during the coronavirus crisis.

Opposition to this initiative, mainly made up of left-wing parties or NGOs such as HumanRights, denounces its Islamophobic implications as well as the violation of individual freedom. The Left also argues that women wearing full face veils in Switzerland account for only a tiny minority of Muslim women in Switzerland. There are no statistics on the wearing of the burqa or niqab in the country; however, while in 2009 according to the Ministry of the Interior there were around 1,630 women wearing this type of clothing, it is estimated that in Switzerland the figure is between 95 and 130. Lastly, this initiative can be seen as an instrument of the Right to stigmatise Muslim women in Switzerland.

Note that two similar initiatives were accepted at the cantonal level, in Ticino in 2013 and in the canton of Saint Gall in 2018. These cantonal laws provide for a minimum fine of CHF 100 in the event of infringement.

Voir Le temps.

  • May 2020: Coronavirus and religious life in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a variety of changes in religious and spiritual life. For two months, places of worship had to close their doors, fostering variations on traditional practices and the emergence of new interpretations.

In the Catholic church, for example, it is usually extremely rare for women to speak during religious services. However, due to the impossibility of attending celebrations and the absence of a priest, certain ceremonies such as the Eucharist were an opportunity for innovation and gave women the chance to take the floor.

Religious ceremonies, across all denominations, were mostly cancelled for several months before being able to resume subject to conditions on 28 May. In contrast, funerals were allowed but with only families in attendance. These restrictions have led to adjustments and creative solutions to support bereaved families.

The health crisis has also given rise to various interpretations of the world, the individual and the virus. The Intercantonal Centre for Information on Beliefs asserts that currents such as televangelists or Jehovah’s Witnesses rely on apocalyptic interpretation and associate the virus with divine punishment that purportedly confirms biblical writings. Meanwhile, New-Age and neo-shamanic spiritual circles interpret the virus differently, with humanity being perceived as “an enormous coronavirus for the planet”.

  • January 2020: Increase in "no religion" and other developments in Switzerland

According to the structural survey conducted in 2018 (the results of which were published in 2020 by the Federal Statistical Office), the percentage of “non-religious” people in Switzerland increased sharply between 2010 and 2018, reaching 25% of the population. In the 1970s, Catholics and Protestants still accounted for almost the entirety of the population. The decrease in proportion of people identifying with these two religions is such that in 2018, Catholics accounted for only 36.5% of the population, and Protestants 24.4%. The percentage of Muslim people, on the other hand, increased by 0.8% to 5.2% of the population. Buddhists (0.5%) and Hindus (0.6%) outnumber the Jewish community, which accounts for only 0.3%.

As regards religious practice, less than 20% of “non-religious” people attended an institutional religious event over the course of the year preceding the survey. The religious group reporting the lowest practice levels is Muslim men, the percentage of which had not attended an event and did not pray amounted to 46% and 40% respectively. They were followed by Muslim women, reformed Protestants and lastly, Roman Catholics. In contrast, 72% of members of evangelical communities reported having participated in a religious celebration at least once a week. Lastly, women generally pray more than men and are more likely to belong to a religion.

Main sources: SFO website and Le Matin.

D 2 December 2020    ANatalie Aberer


D 26 February 2019   


D 3 October 2018   


August 2017: Crucifixes in hospitals under debate
In August 2017, the presence of crucifixes in the rooms of a Valais hospital (the Valais is one of the twenty-four cantons in Switzerland) (...)

  • August 2017: Crucifixes in hospitals under debate

In August 2017, the presence of crucifixes in the rooms of a Valais hospital (the Valais is one of the twenty-four cantons in Switzerland) revived the issue of religious signs, in hospitals in particular and in the public domain in general.

A committed member of the Free Thinkers of French-Speaking Switzerland, which initiated the initiative for a secular Valais in 2015 (eventually withdrawn), was hospitalised at the Valais Hospital, where he took offence at finding a crucifix in his room. Management replied that it did not wish to “enter into the debate on the religious question” but that the object could be removed at the patient’s request.

At the national level, it should be noted that Valais is one of the only cantons, along with Lucerne, to hang crucifixes in the patient’s rooms. Conversely, cantons such as Freiburg, Jura and Geneva have abolished them as religious signs from the hospital universe. In Geneva, for example, this measure was taken more than twenty years ago. For more details on this controversy.

For more details on this controversy, see the article in Le Nouvelliste.

  • June 2017: Report on religious symbols in public buildings

On 9 June 2017, the Federal Council published a report on the wearing and presence of religious symbols in public buildings. This report had been requested by Mr. Aeschi in September 2013 in order to present the need to legislate on the issue of the presence of crucifixes and other religious symbols as well as on the wearing of religious symbols of various sizes in public buildings.

The report paints a picture of the legal situation and daily practice of displaying and wearing religious symbols in public buildings. The Federal Office of Justice (OFJ), which was commissioned to produce the report, mandated several bodies to do so: the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg, the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (ISDC) and the Swiss Centre of Expertise on Human Rights (CSDH).

Two main findings of this survey are worthy of note:

- Legislation concerning the display and wearing of religious signs and symbols in public buildings does not exist under federal law, with the exception of Article 21 para. 1 and C of the Federal Personnel Act. To date, these matters fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.
- Between 2001 and 2015, political statements dealt mainly with crucifixes/crosses, Muslim places of prayer/cemeteries and the wearing of the Muslim veil. These political statements have in few cases led the legislator to take action.
- Religious symbols can be found in more than half of public buildings and are particularly numerous in hospitals.

Further results of empirical studies (on-line survey, interviews with staff, researchers and religious representatives) as well as a comparative study with European countries are available in the report.

  • June 2017: Declaration of Halal meat

The National Council accepted by an overwhelming majority a motion requiring halal meat to be declared as such to customers, whether in supermarkets or in restaurants.

In Switzerland, Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter is prohibited. It is therefore impossible to produce halal or kosher meat. However, the law allows the import of such meat. Current legislation requires a processing declaration only at the first stage of sale (wholesale trade), in contrast to retail sale and restaurants. The parliamentary initiative, launched by Yannick Buttet (Christian Democratic Party, centre), requests a mandatory declaration at all stages of sale.

An additional requirement is that relating to the cost of tendering (selection of supplier). This is because halal meat is often cheaper than meat obtained by non-ritual slaughter, the initiator believes that other companies are penalised.

Representatives of the Left, as well as part of the PLR (Radical Liberal Party) and the PVL (Liberal Greens Party) consider this initiative problematic due to its focus on a specifically Muslim practice. In addition, Martina Munz (Socialist Party) believes that the quantity of halal meat is low and more affordable due to the quality of certain pieces.

The Commission of the Council of State opposed this parliamentary initiative by 8 votes to 3. If the plenum (all parliamentarians of the chamber concerned) does so, the item will be discarded.

Source: Le Temps.

  • May 2017: Rejection of the ban on head coverings in the canton of Glaris

On 6 May 2017, the Landsgemeinde (“Cantonal Assembly”) of the canton of Glaris, a direct democracy institution found in two cantons in Switzerland, rejected the citizens’ initiative to ban head coverings and, implicitly, the wearing of a full veil in public space. The Landsgemeinde, composed of citizens of the municipality, rejected this request for a ban by a two-thirds vote.

The initiative was spearheaded by politician Roland Hämmerli of the right-wing party UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre). His main arguments revolved around security, targeting “veiled" women”, “agents of chaos” and “hooligans”.

According to opponents of the initiative, dress requirements should not be found in the Constitution. They also intended to prevent the Landsgemeinde from serving the “interests of far-right circles”. The Government and the Cantonal Parliament also rejected the initiative.

Until this date, only the canton of Ticino has such a legal provision (see the 2014 debate)

Source: RTS.

  • May 2017: Migration and the “Juju” tradition

Swiss social services are faced with ever more frequent cases of Nigerian migrant women, most involved in prostitution networks, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or convinced that they are living under the threat of witch doctors. Understanding the “Juju” tradition is a first step towards alleviating the suffering of these migrants.

To keep these women under their control and extort large sums of money from them, the criminal networks that exploit these Nigerians rely not only on physical threats but also the exploitation of their religious beliefs. Before being sent to Europe, these women are brought to a wizard who, according to the “Juju” tradition, has the power to kill them or make them crazy from a distance thanks to the powers of the god Eshu. Socialised in societies steeped in the world of magic and its beliefs, these women experience anxieties so great that they develop serious psychological disorders.

Maria Rio Benito, a psychiatrist at the association for migrants’ aid, Appartenances, in Lausanne, explains that symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are commonplace. According to her, the “Juju” phenomenon needs to be understood and treated within the context of the social precariousness of victims. Cases are multiplying due to the increase in migratory flows from Nigeria.

Source: Le Temps.

D 26 September 2017    AAnaïd Lindemann


August 2016: A unique Taoist centre in Switzerland ready to be unveiled
Taoism, the ancient Chinese tradition famous for its concept of Taiji (yin and yang), will soon be practised and (...)

  • August 2016: A unique Taoist centre in Switzerland ready to be unveiled

Taoism, the ancient Chinese tradition famous for its concept of Taiji (yin and yang), will soon be practised and discovered in Bullet, in the canton of Vaud. This will definitely come as good news to the few hundred followers in Switzerland, and the tens of thousands of people who practice one or more branches of Taoism, such as feng shui, tai chi or yi qing. Accepted by regional authorities and supported by local authorities and tourist organisations, this project initiated by the Taoist centre Ming Shan, amounting to 5 million Swiss francs, will be launched in 2018. The project started this autumn.

The building will be built in wood and in accordance with the precepts of feng shui. It will contain not only three rooms for the practice of physical arts, but also a library, a medical practice, a temple, a shop, a dormitory, rooms containing some thirty beds and a sixty-seat restaurant.

Fabrice Jordan, acupuncturist and president of the Swiss Taoist Association that originated this project, emphasises the centre’s integrative vocation. It will therefore not be a structure focused solely on Taoism, but one fostering good relations between different religions and philosophies. To this end, seminars will be organised several times a year, at which representatives and followers of other religions will also be welcome. At the same time, the Ming Shan centre intends to act in the field of prevention in the field of health, through modules addressing such issues as burnout, obesity or ageing.

  • July 2016: Institutional crisis at the reformed Evangelical church of the canton of Vaud

Last July, the tensions brewing within the reformed Evangelical church of the canton of Vaud (EERV) hit the headlines. A pastor from the city of Lausanne went on a 23-day hunger strike to protest against his dismissal and that of six of his colleagues over the two preceding years. This crisis that is now shaking the religious institution in Vaud can be understood in the light of recent developments in the status of the Church in Switzerland.

Until the 1990s, the relationship between ministers and the State was not contractual. After this, the contractual form between the State and pastors replaced the form of independence from which they previously benefited. However, since 2007, the contract has now been established at the cantonal level: authority in this respect has been assigned to the Synodal Council, representing the EERV, under the Vaud State Staff Act. The Ecclesiastical Regulation of 2009 provides that the Synodal Council, as ‘representative of the EERV in its role as employer’, has the power to ‘adopt the general human resources strategy based on the principles defined by the Synod and to manage human resources.’

As such, the EERV turned to the Human Resources Office (ORH), responsible for changes in employment situation. Thus empowered, the ORH has dismissed seven pastors since 2014, for a variety of reasons, such as refusal of a change in job situation or an attitude deemed disloyal when addressing the media. This provoked indignant reactions, and other colleagues who expressed their feeling of being “little heard or mistreated” by the ORH. The Synod, thus, decided to create a litigation handling committee (deliberative body). Concurrent to this, the redundant pastors lodged complaints. On 4 November, one of them had already seen his complaint rejected by the Industrial Court, which had not recognised any of the charges against EERV, the HR management practices having been deemed in compliance with labour law.

  • June 2016: Muslim men and women once again targeted by racism in Switzerland

Racism against Muslims has increased by 11% since 2014. This is apparent in the results of the report published by the Federal Commission against Racism.

This statistic, however, reflects only the experience of those victims of racism who came in contact with one of the 14 structures of the Network of counselling centres for victims of racism. Of the 239 cases of racism reported, 53 involved Muslims. David Mühlemann, project manager, stated in an interview in the Tribune of Geneva: “Now one in five complaints registered in a counselling centre involves Muslims. We will see in two or three years’ time whether this trend persists”. Furthermore, the majority of the victims also continue to be people of African origin.

The authors of the report explain this increase in displays of anti-Muslim sentiment by migratory movements, the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis, as well as the terrorist acts perpetrated on behalf of the ISIS (so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) group or claimed by it.

  • 13 June 2016: Opening of the “Islam and Society” Centre in Freiburg

Despite opposition from the Party of the Democratic Union of the Centre of Freiburg (see debates 2014), the Islam and Society Centre in Freiburg was inaugurated on 13 June 2016.

In 2015, the Freiburg UDC had tabled an initiative aimed at having the centre’s opening banned. Considered unconstitutional by the Grand Council, the initiative was not put up for popular vote. Previously, the UDC had already initiated the anti-minaret initiative in 2009 (see debate 2009).

This skills centre, operating under the University of Freiburg, offers a curriculum focused on thinking about Islam in Switzerland and interreligious dialogue, in particular by offering tools for sociological and legislative knowledge. The Centre will not train imams, though, contrary to what its UDC opponents claimed.

  • June 2016: Radio and TV programmes on religion “saved”

In November 2015, Swiss Radio Television (RTS) announced that all religious programmes on its airwaves would be discontinued (see debate 2015). Eight months later, in June 2016, a compromise was reached and most of these programmes will be maintained. This last-minute rescue is the result of important negotiations between the three partners (RTS, Cath-Info and Médias-pro) and the mobilisation of the public through a petition signed by more than 25,000 people.

“We are satisfied with the conclusion of the negotiations which work to the credit of public demand and the tight financial context facing the RTS. The renewal of the agreement between the partners is an encouraging sign for our institutions and our employees”, wrote Bernard Litzler and Michel Kocher, respectively directors of Cath-Info and Médias-Pro, in a press release issued on 24 June 2016.

However, this agreement between the three entities does contain a few changes: while three of the four radio shows will be maintained, the fourth will be struck, and replaced by a new programme dedicated to decrypting religions. The two television programmes, meanwhile, will be merged, and the number of religious services on television will decrease by one-third in 2017.

  • April 2016: Study on language, religion and culture: initial findings

The Federal Statistical Office (FMO) published the first results from data collected in 2014 for the Study on Language, Religion and Culture. This survey is unique and unprecedented in Switzerland: it provides, for the first time, reliable and expanded information on religion and spirituality, among other topics. In fact, more than 15,000 people aged 15 and above were surveyed in three national languages, namely German, French and Italian, on thirty questions. The survey will now be conducted every five years to yield longitudinal data.

Issues relating to the “religion” component concern the following themes: religious affiliation, practices such as participation in religious services and prayers, beliefs, the importance of religion and spirituality, as well as some views on religious diversity in Switzerland. The first results were published this year in the form of a brochure entitled “Religious and spiritual practices and beliefs in Switzerland”.

With regard to the Swiss confessional landscape, among other notable results, we can see that Muslims account for the largest percentage of the population from the first generation (80%) and the second generation (14%). On the other hand, the Protestant faith has the largest number of people not from migration. In terms of practices, evangelical Protestants most devoutly attend services, with more than 70% of them attending at least once a week. Similarly, 85% pray at least once a day. It is Muslims, just behind those without confession, who practice the least. In contrast, they come in right alongside the evangelical Protestants in believing in a single God (90%). Lastly, it should be noted that Romandy Swiss (French-speaking Swiss) of religious faith most often resort to healers and that religion or spirituality is particularly important to them in difficult times.

To view all the results, click here.

D 22 November 2016    AAnaïd Lindemann


November 2015: Radio and TV - cancellation of religious programmes
Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) has cited budgetary reasons to explain the cancellation, planned for 2017, of three religious (...)

  • November 2015: Radio and TV - cancellation of religious programmes

Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) has cited budgetary reasons to explain the cancellation, planned for 2017, of three religious programmes. In order to save 11.4 million Swiss francs between 2016 and 2018, the radio programmes “A vue d’esprit” and “Haute fréquence”, as well as the televisual magazine “Faut pas croire" will no longer figure in RTS’ future programming. This decision may result in job losses for 50% of the personnel employed within RTS Religion, while the savings to be achieved account for only 3% of RTS’ total budget.

In 26 minutes, the weekly magazine “Faut pas croire” deals with issues of an ethical and philosophical nature, as much as religious. Fuelled by current debates and reports, it is aimed at the general public in French-speaking Switzerland. As for the two radio programmes, “A vue d’esprit" presents content focused on spirituality, whereas “Haute fréquence” deals with sometimes upsetting topics in the religious domain via interviews.

The announcement has caused a veritable outcry, as much on social media as within the editorial team concerned and in the two institutions mainly responsible for the editorial content, Cath-Info (Catholic) and Médias-pro (Protestant). Collaboration between RTS, Cath-Info and Médias-pro dates back to the sixties. The first religious magazines - exclusively Christian - began in 1964. Forty years later, their contents have been extended to the interreligious domain.

On Facebook, one can read that “in the current times, it is not the right time to cancel the small amount of religious programming on TV” and that this choice is “scandalous”. It is a concern shared by Mgr Alain de Raemy, the bishop responsible for the media and entrusted with promoting a Catholic and ecumenical presence in all Swiss media; he considers that “it raises a question mark over the place we grant man’s religious dimension in these times when religion is so often and in so many ways in the headlines”.

In job terms, it would cut in half the number of personnel working for the religious section of RTS. One collaborator expressed it in these terms: “RTS bosses have not taken into account that we are a true editorial team, with strong proposals, a cross-media collaboration between radio and TV and with precious contacts in religious circles”. Jean-Christophe Emery, in charge of the Protestant section of Radio RTS, remarks that the disappearance of specialist religious productions is deeply worrying.

  • January 2015: recognition of Islam

In Switzerland, religious communities can be recognised officially, implying certain specific rights and obligations (see section on the legal status of religions). However, this recognition is, for the moment, far from being granted to all religious communities established in Switzerland.

Two paths to recognition

The national churches - Roman Catholic and Reformed - benefit from a public law status, just as the Jewish community does in certain cantons (religious issues are dealt with at cantonal, not federal, level). This form of recognition is also called “grande reconnaissance” [lit. major recognition]. This means that the Swiss State ensures, in line with the Constitution, material resources for the functioning of the religious institutions in question, in particular in the form of subsidies and payment of salaries to their representatives.

The “petite reconnaissance” [lit. minor recognition] itself ensures a recognition of public interest for religious communities which then benefit from certain rights that are more restricted than in the first form of recognition: the possibility of providing religious education in schools, for example. Such is the case of the Alevi in the canton of Basel City, a community derived from Islam (for more information, see procedures for recognition).

Timid advances in the recognition of Muslims

Since late 2012, the Alevi community has been the one and only Muslim community to benefit from official, albeit limited, recognition. This lack of recognition can come as a surprise, knowing that Islam is, numerically speaking, the second-largest religion in Switzerland, after the two majority Christian confessions (Reformed and Catholic). In January 2015, two Muslim organisations announced that they wished to prepare their application for recognition as being of public interest: the UVAM (Union vaudoise des associations musulmanes), an umbrella body for 15 organisations, and the CIL (Centre islamique de Lausanne). But the climate unfavourable to Islam and Muslims due to the international context is of concern to UVAM President Pascal Gemperli, a convert to Islam from Schaffhausen.

With the issue being treated at cantonal level, Basel City and Vaud are the cantons concerned with these future requests and should consequently serve as a “laboratory for Muslims in search of a status”. The Canton of Vaud, for its part, has published a document listing many precise conditions to attain a recognition of public interest, recalling that this does not open up a right to subsidies, unlike public law recognition.

The challenges of recognition

According to Jurist Philippe Gardaz of the Institute of Law and Religion at the University of Fribourg, the organisations which commit to an application procedure for recognition can be “bridges of integration”. Indeed, candidate organisations for petite reconnaissance are subject to checks by cantonal authorities over a five-year period and must prove their respect for many principles, such as democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms etc. This without taking into account the process which precedes the canton’s decision, which will have already lasted two years in the Alevis’ case.

Even if the step towards public law recognition (“grande reconnaissance”) is still far off, this debate reignites issues related to the various advantages that such recognition represents: training for imams (when not recruiting imams from abroad who are not always up to date with islams in the Swiss context), the remuneration of Muslim chaplains in prisons and hospitals (today mainly volunteers, unlike Christian chaplains who are remunerated by the Swiss State) and access to the register of residents (which would allow quick contact with Muslim newcomers).

D 15 December 2015    AAnaïd Lindemann


November 2014: ban on the full veil in Ticino canton
On 22 September 2013, the initiative seeking to ban concealment of the face in public and to incorporate this in the Constitution of Ticino (...)

  • November 2014: ban on the full veil in Ticino canton

On 22 September 2013, the initiative seeking to ban concealment of the face in public and to incorporate this in the Constitution of Ticino was accepted by 65.4% of voters in the Italian-speaking canton. As such, Ticino has become the first canton to prohibit wearing of the full veil in public, which has ignited debate: some regard this vote as a violation of the fundamental rights of Muslim women and discrimination against the Muslim minority when combined with the ban on building minarets in Switzerland (which was voted on and passed in June 2010).

This initiative - led by former journalist Giorgio Ghiringhelli, and with a text very close to the French law approved by the European Court of Human Rights in July 2014 - is seen by some as nonsense. Indeed, the number of residents who conceal their face is extremely low, whether in Ticino in particular or in Switzerland in general: there are only around ten people who do so in the whole country, according to Nadia Karmous, President of the Cultural Organisation for Muslim Women in Switzerland.

The human rights NGO Amnesty International has declared that a “general ban on wearing the full veil violates the right to freedom of expression and religion of the women who choose to express their identity or convictions in such a manner”. On the other hand, Amnesty International recalls that it is up to the State to make sure that no woman is forced to veil herself. Another danger of this emergency law is that it is likely to marginalise women wearing such clothing. The initiative has also been condemned by Human Rights Watch, the European Muslim League and the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS).

The issue of the full veil in Switzerland, although it relates to only a small minority of Muslim women, has been a regular subject of discussion since 2006. The Federal Council had clearly opposed the ban, but the wind turned: in November 2014, the Federal Council (executive power) gave its assent for the modification of the Constitution of Ticino put forward by the initiative. It only remains to await the decision of the parliament so that the initiative can indeed come into effect. It is very likely that the debate will go beyond the cantonal level and lead to a popular vote at national level.

  • September 2014: opposition to the opening of the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society

A plan to start university studies in Islam in Switzerland was to lead to the opening in 2014 of the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society (CIS), attached to and coordinated by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Fribourg. The purpose of this study course is to offer an academic framework for reflexion on Islam in Switzerland as well as interreligious dialogue. The study course is primarily aimed at imams, giving them tools to familiarise themselves with the Swiss environment and legislation, but also at any person working in contact with Muslims.

But the course will finally not start until 2017. Right-wing political parties, the Swiss People’s Party and FDP. The Liberals strongly oppose it. Presented to the Grand Council of Fribourg, the project was subject to a vote by members of the parliament. The project only narrowly escaped being put on hold. Exasperated, the Swiss People’s party announced that it would launch a popular initiative in early 2015 in order to have people vote on the future of the CIS (Switzerland being a semi-direct democracy, any Swiss citizen, male or female, can launch a popular initiative provided that they collect at least 100,000 signatures in 18 months).

The arguments of those opposing the CIS revolve around three areas: the international context (the persecution of Christians in the Middle East by jihadist groups), financial aspects, and the existence of “hidden” goals in the project (possibly the creation of a Qur’anic school and training of imams within the CIS). These arguments are refuted by those in charge of the project, who state that this has nothing to do with creating a Qur’anic school nor receiving support from abroad. Moreover, they remind us of Articles 8 and 20 of the Swiss Constitution which guarantee the autonomy of science and the universities, as well as equality of treatment regardless of religious affiliation.

D 15 December 2014    AAnaïd Lindemann


March 2013 Imams in Switzerland should benefit from higher education in future. A Confederation working group bringing together representatives from Muslims, universities and the state (that has (...)

  • March 2013

- Imams in Switzerland should benefit from higher education in future. A Confederation working group bringing together representatives from Muslims, universities and the state (that has met every three months since 2010) came together in March 2013 to establish a future programme for training imams in Switzerland.

- The issue of the burqa and its ban is a debate which regularly resurges in the Swiss public arena. An initiative by political members of the UDC, a populist right party, seeking to ban the wearing of the burqa in Swiss public places was brushed aside in late 2012 by the National Council. This text had already been refused by the Council of States.

  • February 2013

A new popular federal initiative against abortion, assisted suicide and pre-implantation diagnosis was launched in late February 2013, entitled “Protecting life to remedy the loss of billions”. This initiative - supported by evangelical activist Heinz Hürzeler, former UDF municipal councillor (a political party which seeks to defend Christian values and which had already contributed significantly to the anti-minaret initiative) - relies heavily on religious arguments. The Swiss have already been called upon to vote on a text to abolish reimbursements for voluntary termination of pregnancy (IVG) - supported by members of the UDC, PDC, PLR, the Evangelical People’s Party (PEV) and the Federal Democratic Union (UDF).

D 6 May 2013    AEmmanuelle Buchard


February 2012: Swiss people’s initiative against the construction of minarets: analysis and debates
On 29 November 2009, the popular initiative banning the construction of new minarets in (...)

  • February 2012: Swiss people’s initiative against the construction of minarets: analysis and debates

On 29 November 2009, the popular initiative banning the construction of new minarets in Switzerland was accepted by 57.5% of "yes" votes and with a turnout of 53.4% of registered voters. This initiative had been launched in response to controversies surrounding minaret construction projects in Swiss German towns (in particular in Wengen). It was mainly supported by politicians from the Democratic Union of the Centre (UDC, a right-wing political party) and the Federal Democratic Union (UDF, a conservative, evangelical party), while the Government, the majority of the Parliament and the majority of large political and religious organisations recommended rejecting the initiative (see article in Religioscope).

The result of the voting shows (and reminds us) that there are fears and questions about Islam. The minaret was transformed into a symbol of an alleged Islamisation of Switzerland, dreaded by many Swiss. Focussing on this symbol obscured the real issues of the ballot. In the well-chosen words of Mallory Schneuwly-Purdie, sociologist of Religions, it is not on an architectural feature that Swiss people voted, but on a system of values (article of 30.11.2009 in Le Matin). The vote raises above all the question of the "visibilisation" and integration of Islam in Switzerland, as evidenced by the many debates on the issue of Islam (burqa, veil, etc.) and, more widespread, numerous controversies, as much in Switzerland as abroad.

The VOX analysis provides several clues that explain the poll results. If the high poll result can be explained by a latent xenophobia as well as caustic criticism of immigration policies on the part of voters, the analysis also shows that 40% of people generally in favour of an open and tolerant Switzerland also voted for the initiative.

The level of educational appears to be a decisive indicator in the result of the vote: the higher people’s level of education, the less support there was for the initiative. The VOX study also reveals that there was no significant difference in voting behaviour by gender and age. Indeed, it was assumed that a large number of women on the left would vote for the ban on the construction of minarets for fear of a decline in access to equality. The latter were in fact in favour of it, but at just 16%, while left-wing male voters were more likely to approve (21%). This difference is reversed when considering centre-right voters: 87% of centre-right female voters opted for the ban and 71% of men. Finally, it is interesting to note that Christians as a whole (both Protestants and Catholics) supported the initiative (60%), while those "without religion" mainly rejected it.

For more information about the voting and the ensuing discussions, see:

- Rapport VOX
- Religioscope, article de Jean-François Mayer
- Groupe de Recherche sur l’Islam en Suisse
- euro-islam
- articles du 27.10.09 et du 03.12.09 dans la Gruyère

D 6 April 2010    AMelina Brede


June 2009: Federal Vote on Minarets (continued)
The federal popular initiative filed on 8th July 2008 to ban minarets throughout the country was deemed admissible by the Parliament and Federal (...)

  • June 2009: Federal Vote on Minarets (continued)

The federal popular initiative filed on 8th July 2008 to ban minarets throughout the country was deemed admissible by the Parliament and Federal Council in March 2009. It will therefore go before the people. At the time of writing, the date of the referendum is not yet known.

For further information : see the monitoring of the initiative on the website of the Swiss Confederation.

D 6 May 2009   


September 2008: Federal Vote on Minarets
A committee composed of members of the UDF (Federal Democratic Union) and the SVP (Swiss People’s Party) filed a federal popular initiative on 8th July (...)

  • September 2008: Federal Vote on Minarets

A committee composed of members of the UDF (Federal Democratic Union) and the SVP (Swiss People’s Party) filed a federal popular initiative on 8th July 2008 seeking to ban minarets throughout the country by amending Article 72 of the Constitution, which makes the Confederation and the cantons responsible for maintaining religious peace. This initiative is currently being considered by parliament.The ’Popular Initiative’ allows citizens to propose a constitutional amendment. To be valid, it must be signed by 100,000 people within 18 months.

D 23 October 2008   

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