Swiss debate over a national representative body for Muslims

In the past few years, many European states have seen the establishment of a national body to represent their respective Muslim population.

Unlike Christianity, Islam does not have a representative and organizational body like the church, which makes it difficult for political institutions to have a contact person for dialogue. Such national representative bodies are now at work in, for instance, France and Germany.

The idea of a single body representing the country’s diverse Muslim groups is one of a number of hot topics now doing the rounds in Switzerland, which is still reeling from the surprise anti-minaret vote two weeks ago. For Stéphane Lathion, head of a research group on Islam in Switzerland at Lausanne University, focusing on a national Muslim umbrella organization right now would be like “putting the cart before the horse”.

“The priority is building ties on a daily basis between Muslim associations and the Swiss population at the local level; not just annual open-door events or inter-religious dialogue, but getting people to talk together more and for associations to take position on specific Muslim issues as well as on social issues regarding the whole of society,” says Lathion.