If Swiss Muslims are not speaking out with a single voice to condemn the brutalities of ISIS, it may be because there is no single voice that speaks for all of Islam.
The majority of Swiss Muslims come from Balkan countries such as Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia, and practise Sufism, a moderate form of Sunni Islam.
The second largest group comes from Turkey; those arriving in the 1960s were largely secular, while later arrivals were either Hanafite Sunnis or Alevi Shias. Both are considered moderate when compared to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many have asked why clerics at Geneva’s mosque (built in 1978 and financed by Saudi Arabia) have not condemned ISIS. The mosque is Switzerland’s biggest, attracting large crowds of worshippers in Petit-Saconnex on most Fridays. Hani Ramadan, an imam at the mosque and director of its Cultural Centre, has been the subject of controversy. He is a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and brother to Geneva-born Tariq Ramadan, himself a controversial writer and lecturer on Muslim affairs.
In a televised debate by Infarouge at the end of September on whether Switzerland is threatened by Islamic terrorists, Hani Ramadan said his centre has condemned Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS) as contrary to Islam. Nevertheless, he said, “Caliph, Jihad and Islamic State are noble words in Islam”. In response, Vaud’s Socialist MP Ada Marra noted the wide divergence between the majority of Muslims in Switzerland and the views expressed by radical Swiss convert Nicolas Blancho and “the ambiguous Hani Ramadan”.
Pamela Taylor is a Geneva-based writer with a long career as a journalist for National Public Radio, Voice of America, AFP’s English Service, and others, in Central Europe, Bosnia and Kosovo.