Swiss Muslims plan giant Islamic centre
- 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
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
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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