In a recent interview with Zürcher Landzeitung, the president of the Swiss Coordination of Islamic Organisations (KIOS), Farhad Afshar, stated that Muslims in European countries accept the rule of law and the social order of the country to which they have immigrated on the condition that they are not racially discriminated against. This comment is more easily understood as one of many questionable positions taken, including support for Islamic tribunals at the end of 2008.
Afshar seems alone in many of his positions, which raises significant questions concerning the legitimacy of his presidency and the KIOS. One of only two organisations that operate on the national level, the KIOS ostensibly represents the cantonal federations of Zurich (the Union of Islamic Organisation of the Canton Zurich – VIOZ), Bern (Umma), and the region of Basel (the Basel Muslim Commission – BMK). However, within the VIOZ there exists an important group which would rather be represented by the other major national federation, the Swiss Federation of Islamic Umbrella Organisations (FIDS), while the latter two organisations are both riven by internal disputes.
Furthermore, the KIOS has neither webpage nor official office, while its phone number and email address are difficult to obtain. This lack of transparency as well as its undemocratic structure has even led one scholar at the University of Lucerne, Andreas Tunger-Zanetti, to call it a “phantom” organisation.
Afshar’s position as one of two Muslims on the Swiss Council of Religions, as well as his regular contact with Swiss officials, is all the more problematic given the lack of legitimacy of his organisation. As stated by Hisham Maizar, president of the other major national-level federation, the FIDS, the goal is to have all Muslims represented by one single federation, which could then be recognised and accepted by public authorities as a reliable and accountable partner.