Initiative launched against Fribourg Islamic Centre

Fears that the Islamic centre would be used to impart Koranic training to imams, fuelled the opposition Keystone

The Fribourg branch of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party launched an initiative on Wednesday to close down the Centre for Islam and Society, which it suspects will become a religious school for imams in the future.

This content was published on January 29, 2015 minutes and agencies

The central committee of the anti-immigration party voted in favour of amending the Fribourg cantonal constitution by introducing “a legal basis for preventing the creation of the Islamic centre as originally planned and preventing the establishment of a state-funded training centre for imams”.

The creators of the initiative emphasised their commitment to the Catholic heritage of the Fribourg theological faculty. They rejected accusations of Islamophobia but expressed their mistrust in the long-term objectives of the Islamic centre, especially the possibility that it could become a state-funded religious training school for imams.

In response to the initiative, the University of Fribourg issued a statement calling for further dialogue. It stressed its autonomy in choosing training and research subjects and considered exchange with Muslims to be an indispensable to mutual understanding and successful integration.

The Centre for Islam and Society has been operational since the beginning of the year. Its director, Hansjörg Schmid, insists that it will not become an Islamic training centre for imams but will be dedicated to theological research and inter-religious dialogue.

The centre also aims to provide imams and representatives of Muslim communities with the information and means to integrate into Swiss society. It will also provide training to people whose professions bring them in regular contact with the Muslim community.

The first courses will be delivered by Schmid himself in February, and a visiting professor is expected in autumn.

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