Switzerland: Switzerland turns down plan for Europe’s largest Islamic centre

Authorities in the Swiss capital, Bern, on Friday said they had turned down a project for Europe’s largest Islamic cultural and economic centre in a zone that is being redeveloped. The city council said a 34-hectare (84-acre) area on the northern outskirts was earmarked exclusively for a new regional hospital and office or commercial use, the Swiss news agency ATS reported. The Islamic centre was one of several building projects under consideration for the zone. City authorities said a religious building was not suitable at that location. The 60 million Swiss francs (36 million euros, 50 million dollars) project for a 23,000 square metre (27,700 square yard) “platform for Islam” would include a congress centre, a four-star hotel, a museum, and a mosque, said Farhad Afshar, a Bern university professor and spokesman for Islamic organisations involved in the project. Bern city councillor Barbara Hayoz said that there was no land in the city that could house the project for the moment. She underlined that city authorities supported dialogue between different cultures and faiths. There are about 311,000 Muslims among the 7.5 million strong Swiss population, according to official statistics. Most of them are originally from the Balkans.