Imams face Swiss integration test

Islamic preachers are coming under pressure Keystone

Islamic preachers and other spiritual leaders from abroad could soon have to take courses to help them integrate better into Swiss society.

This content was published on November 23, 2004 - 15:20

The government proposal comes at a time of growing public debate about the role of Muslims in a multicultural society such as Switzerland’s.

The justice ministry is planning to submit the plan to the cabinet within the next few weeks, according to the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES).

“Imams have a great influence on people whom we cannot reach very easily,” said IMES spokesman Mario Tuor.

“It is important that they do not only preach the Koran but that they also show the members of their community which values and rules, such as equal rights for men and women, prevail in Switzerland,” he added.

Courses at universities

Under the plan, drafted last year, short-term and temporary residency permits would only be granted to applicants who have taken special integration and language courses.

The regulations would also apply to Imams who travel to Switzerland to lead prayers in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan.

The draft proposals specify that the courses would only be introduced if they were found to be in the public interest.

Earlier this month Switzerland’s Catholic and Protestant churches proposed that Imams who lead prayers in Swiss mosques should be educated at Swiss universities.

Richard Friedli, professor of divinity at Fribourg University, said a study was being made into the various forms of Islam in Switzerland.

Initial preparations are also underway at Basel University for the education of Imams in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

There are an estimated 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland.
They account for 4.3% of the population.
Most of them come from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey.

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