A new Islamic Central Council founded in Switzerland

A newly-founded Islamic Central Council of Switzerland says it aims to be the main grassroots Muslim organization in the country. The group currently has about 500 members and hopes to win a total of 10,000 participants by the end of 2011, according to spokesman Qaasim Illi. The group represents the orthodox Sunni Muslims and has launched a public information campaign to help re-shape the image of Muslims in Switzerland. It seeks to win broad recognition among the Muslim community and help institutionalize the Islamic religion in Switzerland, officials said.

In the wake of the anti-minaret vote the group organized a rally in Bern which was attended by an estimated 700 people but did not have the support of any of Switzerland’s main Muslim groups. The event was supposed to host German radical preacher Pierre Vogel, but he was denied entry to Switzerland. The justice ministry did not invite the Islamic Central Council to roundtable talks with Muslim organizations in December. The Swiss Council of Religions, a platform for the main Christian churches as well as the Muslim and the Jewish communities said that it would continue to cooperate with the two established Muslim organizations.

Radical German Muslim preacher Pierre Vogel barred from Swiss rally

The Swiss authorities have barred a controversial Islamic preacher from Germany from attending a planned demonstration against the minaret ban in Bern on Saturday. Pierre Vogel was not allowed to enter Switzerland because his presence is considered a danger for public law and order, according to the Federal Migration Office. He was scheduled to give a speech at the rally. The convert and former professional boxer is known for his strongly conservative and Salafist views.

Vogel wanted to encourage Muslims in Switzerland to come out of their social isolation and help reduce mistrust, he told Swiss newspapers. In an interview with the Swiss SonntagsBlick after his entry ban, Vogel said that he was against the construction of minarets as they are no necessary part of Islam but rather a decoration. The money should instead be used for social work on deliquent Muslim youths.