Dialogue with Muslims should take place at regional and local levels

Keywords: Integration | Religion

Press Release, SEM, 26.11.2012

Bern. Government officials at cantonal, municipal and communal levels met with Muslims to exchange views in the presence of Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the themes identified during the "Muslim Dialogue" initiated by the Confederation. Participants felt that solutions to specific issues should be found at the local level.

Five themes were covered at the meeting: recognition of Islamic religious communities; the need for mutual exchange of information between Muslims and non-Muslims within the population; initial and continuing training of persons giving religious guidance and the handling of religious diversity in schools; discrimination and the need for prayer rooms and burial grounds.

Encouraging peaceful co-existence

Muslim spokespersons and government officials agreed that discussion of these five themes should primarily take place at the cantonal and communal level. First of all, the Federal Constitution provides the cantons and the communes with authority over such matters. Secondly, pragmatic and suitable solutions can more easily be found locally. Already existing dialogue and platforms at the regional and local level as well as contacts between Muslim communities and local authorities should be pursued further.

The Confederation also intends to continue its efforts to fight discrimination and encourage greater integration in the interests of maintaining peaceful co-existence within an increasingly heterogeneous population.

Muslims emphasised the fact that they respected Switzerland’s constitutional framework as well as its traditions and history: they are committed to maintaining good interactions in the various regions between the religious community, the state and the population. However, Muslims also expressed the hope that government officials throughout Switzerland would pay greater heed to their concerns regarding their ability to exercise religious freedom.

Countering extremism and discrimination

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga expressed appreciation for the integration efforts and valuable contributions made by Muslims on a daily basis as members of Swiss society. At the same time, she stated her expectation that all Swiss inhabitants work to counter all forms of extremism and discrimination. 

Representatives on the government side included Cantonal Councillor Pascal Broulis, who serves as President of the Conference of the Cantonal Governments of Switzerland (KdK); Cantonal Councillor Regine Aeppli, who serves as Vice-President of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK); Marcel Guignard, Mayor of Aarau and President of the Swiss Union of Cities (SSV); Hannes Germann, State Councillor and President of the Swiss Union of Communes (SGV).

Representatives on the Muslim side included eighteen personally invited men and women from all regions of Switzerland. These men and women represent the diversity of Muslims in Switzerland and were part of the Muslim Dialogue initiated by the Confederation.

The meeting was a follow-up to the Muslim Dialogue, which reached its official end last year. A report entitled "Muslim Dialogue 2010" was published on 16 December 2011.

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