Muslim association suspends Winterthur mosque

Police raided the mosque premises on Wednesday and temporarily cordoned off the immediate area Keystone

The umbrella association of Islamic organisations in Zurich (VIOZ) has suspended a mosque that was raided by police on Wednesday. An imam is suspected of inciting violence and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

This content was published on November 6, 2016 and agencies

VIOZ president Mahmoud El Guindi said in an interview with the German-language SonntagsZeitung newspaper, “We are shocked that an imam in one of our houses of prayer called for violence.”

The imam at the An’Nur mosque in Winterthur, north of Zurich is accused of having called on worshippers to murder other Muslims who refused to take part in communal prayers. He also allegedly called on those present at the sermon, which the police said took place on October 21 this year, to denounce them.

The VIOZ’s executive board unanimously decided to suspend the mosque until further notice and distanced itself from the imam’s statements.

Respecting the law

“We require our members to commit to the rule of law and Swiss democracy,” said El Guindi. The suspension was a warning to the association that runs the mosque, but it did not rule out giving the organisation a second chance.

It was also not the aim of the umbrella association to punish people for illegal conduct, El Guindi said. “We want to bring radical elements back onto the right path. In certain cases that calls for tolerance.” He added it was important to remain in contact with people attending mosques who had radical ideas, in order to be able to show them there is a different way.

Closing the mosque was not an option the organisation’s president said in the interview, as there was no legal basis for such a move. However he added, that the association needed to put together “requirements for preachers in our mosques”.

The mosque has been in the headlines for the last year for allegedly radicalising young Muslims in the region and recruiting jihadist fighters – charges that it has strongly denied.

The imam and a member of the mosque’s association’s board have been remanded in custody. A former president of the mosque was released on Wednesday, and another person was released on Thursday.

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