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Swiss Muslims plan giant Islamic centre

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    Swiss Muslims plan giant Islamic centre 29. April 2007 Swissinfo http://www.nzz.ch/2007/04/29/eng/article7767060.html One of the largest Islamic cultural
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2007
      Swiss Muslims plan giant Islamic centre
      29. April 2007

      One of the largest Islamic cultural centres in Europe could be
      constructed just north of the Swiss capital, Bern.

      The 23,000 square metre centre, the concept of which has been proposed
      by Umma, the coordination centre of Islamic organisations in
      Switzerland, will comprise a museum on Islam, a mosque, a convention
      centre, offices and a four:star hotel.

      Farhad Afshar, Umma spokesman, confirmed reports in the NZZ am Sonntag
      newspaper and said that central to the project was "the prospect for a
      differentiated dialogue with Islam".

      Afshar said a global competition would be launched to find an
      architect to build the SFr60:80 million ($72:96 million) complex,
      which would be named the Avicenna Centre after a Persian philosopher
      and scientist who lived 1,000 years ago.

      He said he hoped the centre would attract a similar level of interest
      and acclaim as the Paul Klee Centre, a museum dedicated to Swiss
      painter Paul Klee, which is also located in Bern.

      The location under consideration is the former abattoir area in
      Wankdorf, northern Bern, near the Bern:Zurich railway line.

      The land belongs to the city of Bern and is part of the development
      project called "Wankdorf City". Various developers have shown interest
      in the property and the authorities are set to decide in summer on how
      to proceed.
      Cultural richness

      The business model of the Islamic centre is based on the House of
      Religions in Bern, work on which is set to begin in early 2008.

      Afshar said the financing would be split between a public company,
      which would deal with the commercial element of the convention centre,
      and a foundation, which would be responsible for the cultural side.

      A project study and a business plan are currently being worked out in
      order to meet the necessary requirements of the municipal authorities
      and the project's investors.

      Marco Ryter, from Bernese architects Bauart, which is carrying out the
      project study, said: "Every Swiss should be able to take their
      children by the hand and show them Islam in this museum."

      Afshar, who is also the Muslim representative on the Swiss Council of
      Religions, said showing the richness of Islamic culture around the
      world would play a central role, hopefully ensuring that the current
      fuss involving Islam would not degenerate into "unworthy debates"
      about headscarves and minarets.

      Islamic buildings have not always received a warm Swiss welcome. Moves
      to block the construction of minarets, the distinctive architectural
      features of mosques, are underway in various regions.

      The cantonal parliaments of Zurich, Bern, St Gallen and Ticino are
      considering proposals to make the construction of buildings of
      worship, such as minarets, temples and churches, dependent on approval
      at the ballot box.

      On a local level, rightwing extremists in the town of Langenthal in
      canton Bern have collected signatures and organised public protests
      against mosques.

      Furthermore, a committee that includes parliamentarians from the
      rightwing Swiss People's Party has announced an initiative aimed at
      blocking the construction of minarets.

      Currently only two mosques in Zurich and Geneva have a minaret. There
      are about 310,000 Muslims in Switzerland, mainly from the Balkans and
      Turkey, representing up to five per cent of the Swiss population.

      swissinfo with agencies



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