Social Democrats Quietly Unveil Position Paper on Islam

The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SP) has discreetly made public an official position paper “on topics related to Islam.” The text rejects xenophobic stereotyping while at the same time emphasizing the need to defend the “largely secular society.” Western European history is characterized as the product of a process of secularization, while on the other hand the slow evolution of women’s rights issues in Switzerland is brought up to show that any arrogance vis-à-vis Islamic societies is misplaced.

The SP document maintains that sharia law cannot be reconciled with the Swiss state constitution, though it states that most Muslims in Switzerland are already comfortable with the separation of the state and religion. It continues by saying that immigrants should not be primarily characterized by their religion, and that tolerance and openness was expected from all sides. The integration of immigrants of Muslim background is also considered to be more difficult than that of southern Europeans in the past.

In terms of concrete positions the paper offers nothing unusual: provisions for Muslim cemeteries; calls for the training of imams at Swiss institutions; respect for freedom of expression and religious freedom (including conversion); exemption from school for religious holidays; and a public ban on the veil for female teachers. The question of a ban on the burqa is at the moment not a serious issue.