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On Friday We Meet in the Back Yard - CS EN


The author depicts the way in which Swiss politics impact on the acceptance of the Muslim community in Switzerland.


A major part of Muslim religious practice takes place in the private sphere of the home or within the four walls of a mosque and go unnoticed by the public. However, some of the Muslim practices do enter the public arena. One reason for religious practices becoming the object of public attention is that legal questions are involved. E.g., mosques and minarets, which are a part of the town planning and have to be negotiated with authorities and existing rules.

The Swiss Confederation however, is secular in the sense that there is no state religion, but specific ties between the state and specific religious communities, e.g. Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism. Islam is not officially a recognized religion.

With this background, it may be clear that Muslims are in principle free to follow the rules of their religion, but that their practices may be balanced against other considerations, and give rise to public debates and legal cases if other citizens claim that their interests are harmed. With these general remarks in mind, I will discuss some of the Islamic religious practices and see how the Swiss society responds to them.

Muslim religious practices have found their way into Switzerland – like in other European countries – not only in the private sphere of the home and the mosques, but also became visible in the public sphere and recognized by the authorities. In some cases, this recognition went smoothly and without much opposition. But in some fields, Muslim practices meet more opposition, because opponents claim that these practices violate the rights or the freedom of others. Overseeing the Muslim practices as they evolve in Switzerland, one can conclude that this is a relatively smooth process, even though stereotypes about Islam – like associations with violence, intolerance and oppression of women – are widespread. This negative general image is, however not translated in a constant questioning of the democratic capacities of Muslim migrants – a fact which may be explained by the presence of a well-educated, well-integrated and well-placed group of Muslims, who contribute to a more positive public image of the Muslim community.


Conflict case

In depth analysis of parties and issues and real interests

Article from:  Tagesanzeiger 9. October 2006. “Der SVP geht`s nicht um Minarette“ –

„The DUC don’t deal about minarets”

I explain first the abbreviations SVP and DUC: SVP means Schweizerische Volkspartei, in French UDC, Union démocratique du Centre, translated in English DUC, democratic union of the centre. It is a party on the right side, opponent to the socialist party. The DUC declares in her statements concerning political positions about immigrants:

« Politique des étrangers : Par sa taille et sa densité démographique, la Suisse n’est de toute évidence pas un pays d’immigration. Néanmoins, elle est devenue la destination d’un grand nombre de faux réfugiés et d’immigrants clandestins.

La politique de migration doit donc obéir aux règles suivantes :

Les ressortissants étrangers n’ont pas par principe le droit de pouvoir séjourner en Suisse, qu’il s’agisse de personnes désireuses de travailler, de demandeurs d’asile ou de leurs familles.

Une personne qui reçoit une autorisation de séjour est un hôte de notre pays et doit à ce titre respecter nos lois. L’ordre et le droit doivent être imposés rigoureusement. Il n’y a pas place en Suisse pour des groupements et des activités extrémistes. Chaque étranger décide lui-même dans quelle mesure il veut s’intégrer. Il doit cependant supporter les conséquences de son choix et ne peut s’attendre à un traitement spécial.

Main-d’oeuvre étrangère oui, immigration non : Les besoins de la Suisse en main-d’oeuvre étrangère varient avec la situation économique. Aussi bien des employeurs que des salariés ont fréquemment des besoins uniquement saisonniers. Des autorisations de courte durée excluant le regroupement familial constituent la meilleure. » 1 This excerpt from the DUC program 2004-2007 points out misanthropy and racist attitudes.

The article in the “Tagesanzeiger” shows as a conflict with Muslims in Zurich and the right party DUC. The DUC operates against mosques and minarets. This is their strategy to win the next nationals elections in autumn 2007. They operate with stereotypes e.g. Islam - equal to terrorism, intolerance, oppression of women. They give people a feeling of fear and uncertainty.

“The right to exist for Muslims is questioned,” says in the same article Hasan Taner Hatipoglu, vice-president of the association of Islamic organisations in Zurich. He declares, that the DUC makes vote catching on the embossment of the Muslims. The DUC uses the enemy picture of the Muslims and the Islam religion and wants, therefore, to enforce many people to vote for her party. This provokes the danger of retreat, so Muslims operate only in closed societies. The Moslem People are thinking that the Swiss society will never accept them.

This feeling of non-acceptance can release radicalization, Muslims feel them out- bordered, and this is very bad for integration.  However, out-bordering must be prevented.

The Muslims must nevertheless open them and search the contact with the local people. Mutually respect would be a good mean against retreat and radicalization. The Muslims in Zurich were searching the contact with the  DUC for a dialogue,  but this dialogue was rejected by the DUC.

Muslims claim for support or recognition in specific areas e.g. they want to be visible in the society, so they must no longer be forced to meet on Friday in the back-yard instead of a well visible mosque with a minaret.

The legal basis is equal neither for the DUC nor for the Muslims in Switzerland. The Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation declare: 2

Art. 15: Freedoms of Religion and Philosophy

  1. The freedoms of religion and philosophy are guaranteed.
  2. All persons have the right to choose their religion or philosophical convictions freely, and to profess them alone or in community with others.
  3. All persons have the right to join or to belong to a religious community, and to follow religious teachings.
  4. No person should be forced to join or belong to a religious community, to participate in a religious act, or to follow religious teachings.


Relevant endoxa and stereotypes

For the DUC particularity is always already universal. Culture is understood as a hypertext: “We are Christians here and not Moslems!” Religion is a cultural product and a tool. This tool is very good used by the DUC.

Some stereotypes appear: The cultural psychology considers stereotypes and prejudices as the production of strategic, intelligent behaviour, interested in conducting the problem toward the “others”. The DUC party is a quite good example for the production of stereotypes; they follow really a strategy to conduct the problems towards the Muslims. Moreover, the DUC party lakes the knowledge and recognition towards the Muslims.

The discrimination and lack of understanding are mentioned in the document: « La vie musulmane en Suisse ».  3

I quote :

« Buthayana F. donne le ton : «Il faut être honnête avec soi-même. Il y a une souffrance dans la communauté musulmane» (4.2). Les personnes interrogées utilisent une palette relativement large de notions qui appartiennent au même champ sémantique pour verbaliser la nature de cette souffrance. Sur le plan des relations sociales, elles mentionnent souvent le

«regard des autres» (Ahmed N. et Nasser M.), les quelques «préjugés» (Buthayana F : 5) ainsi que le manque de connaissance (et parfois de reconnaissance, Buthayana F. : 5.2.3) de l’islam comme des facteurs de discrimination et /ou d’incompréhension (Ali T. : 1.5) à l’égard des musulmans. «

Tension between culture and religion is appearing. 4 In this case, we find tensions between political  and  religious  dimensions,  between  political  und  religious  institutions,  between religious and social ethics. The DUC party behaviour provokes tensions on different levels. In addition, they intend to transform the tensions into conflicts, so that the DUC party will appear as the only part to guarantee “law and order” in Switzerland.


Politic and social context

Monitoring misanthropy and rightwing extremist attitudes in Switzerland 5

In an explorative study about misanthropy and rightwing extremism in Switzerland, we can see: The main characteristics of misanthropy and rightwing personality are its anti- democratic views that are combined with anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, conventionalism, authoritarianism, “law and order” mentality, the feeling of being threatened by something different. It is based on antidemocratic, anti-individualistic views, denying the democratic fundamental axiom of the equality of all human beings.

Rightwing extremism is also not a marginal phenomenon. 6% of the population think that violence can solve problems and the “law and order” philosophy is largely diffused. Islamophobia relates 30% of the Swiss population.

« Islamophobie qui est répandue non seulement sur le plan juridique mais aussi sur le plan social et culturel, et qui tend à démontrer l`incompatibilité de L`islam avec la civilisation européenne. » 6

“Islam today is considered as a whole, to be a fundamentalist religion. However, in reality, there are different Islamic traditions and, above all, there are various forms of fundamentalism”. 7 At the basis of various types of fundamentalisms, indifference is present. This is valid neither for the Islam nor for the religious indifference in Europe. The logic of fundamentalism bases on several points: A religious point of view is regarded as a universal one. The particular origins of this point of view are forgotten. Other particular points of view are excluded.  So an own orthodoxy is defined.

The problem between the DUC party and the Muslims in Zurich seems, therefore, more an ethical than a political one. We need to reconcile the particular needs with the universal perspective. This problem must be solved at the communication level,  especially by dialogue.


Communicative strategy for intervention: Communicative practices

I plead for mediation; this “becomes a professional activity, whereby a third intervenes in a conflict in order to help conflicting parties reasonably discuss and possible find a win solution to their conflict. It is a communicative activity with a high rate of argumentativeness”. 8  Mediation needs a change in the paradigm, e.g. peace cannot be imposed without going back to the source, and it is not viable.

After Monceri for intercultural competence and interreligious dialogue, some basic skills are important:  9

1.  Interest in alternative worldviews

  1. Ability to individuate (one’s own ) value- judgments
  2. Ability to distinguish between understanding and acceptance
  3. Ability to overcome inner discomfort
  4. Disposability to change one’s own value-system
  5. Ability to accept a `refusal`

Who could be able to suggest mediation in this special case mentioned above? At my opinion, this could be the Swiss council of religions (SCR). This is an official authority for the UDC with “law and order” principles and can be accepted.

To the SCR belong top representative of Swiss churches, the Jews and the Muslims. The SCR will serve as dialogue platform between responsible persons of the religious communities as well as a partner for the federal authorities.

With the creation of the SCR the churches and religious communities involved connect the following objectives: a contribution to the receipt and for the promotion of the religious peace in Switzerland; the communication under the participation over common requests; the creation of confidence between the religious communities; the dialogue to current religion- political questions.

At my opinion, the federal authorities are involved because the same tensions appear in other regions of Switzerland, not only in Zurich. The Swiss authorities must be interested in solving the problem before tensions create an open conflict. Therefore, problem-solving on the communicative level is required. Communication means creating a common space and putting in common the two involved parties: the DUC party and the Muslims.

Fabris mentioned that communication is the creation of common space in which the interlocutors is responsible for.10 But that considered the prospect of ethics in communication with the conditions of certain moral conduct, capable of involving all speaking individuals in the same communicative process. These moral principles are:

  1. The principle of justice (respecting the right of every interlocutor to speak)
  2. The principle of solidarity (the acknowledge that others have the same communicative capacity that I acknowledge for myself and the intention to support their use of it)
  3. The principle of co-responsibility (the interlocutors assume common responsibility and make sure that the communicative space remains open).
  4. Ethic is a cultural product; ethic is local, forming by the local guide for evaluation the action. Ethics in communication helps to create the common space.    
  5. The different parties must share the above-mentioned ethical principles during mediation.

Monceri declares that dialogue means an exchange of data stimuli and information. We need to negotiate in every context, the result is not given, and it can be acceptable or not acceptable.

« Connaître et communiquer avec l`autre signifient s`ouvrir à un processus de vérification, non comparative mais caractérielles, ou les qualités des deux sont mises en confrontation pour apprendre ensemble à accroitre et à améliorer sa propre relation avec le monde. » 11 One point to illuminate during mediation should be the following, mentioned by Pallavicini:

« La plupart des musulmans, en Europe, n`ont aucune intention de se prêter aux jeux de pouvoir politiques de quelque groupe isolé, mais revendiquent l`urgence de maintenir et de transmettre aux futures générations l`identité spirituelle et culturelle de la tradition islamique, comme partie intégrante du patrimoine de l`humanité. » 12

This means that the fear of the DUC about the Islam fundamentalism should decrease during mediation and as a result, the Islam fundamentalism should not longer be used as a theme in the national elections in autumn 2007. “Through thinking about others, we arrive to think about us. We should be able to change in contact with others, the world became different.”13 Such a different view concerns the human rights; they may be regarded as a by-product of western religious worldviews. Rights are not universal. We have to be aware not to the argument with the human rights because the typology is different in other cultures. The occidental context is different from the Islamic context. However, with some ethical aspects shared in different religious groups, we open up a common space. This space works definite ethical

principles that are carried out.


Identification of potential for effective resolution by mediation

Hans Küng show us, various models of conduct that exist in various religions, a series of common elements, a shared ethos, that may be recognised by believers of different religions, perhaps even by non-believers. It is necessary we have common elements pertinent to collaboration. With a direction of acknowledging, we have some ethical aspects that are shared by different religious groups.

“We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. By a global ethic, we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the domination of one religion over all others.

By a global ethic we mean a fundamental Consensus”.  14

Habermas explains how values can be reformed : « Le véritable obstacle consiste en ceci que les acteurs, pour acquérir une capacité d’action à ce niveau de globalité, doivent apprendre à ne plus seulement se concevoir comme des acteurs décidant de manière indépendante mais comme des membres d’une communauté mondiale et à assumer des intérêts universalisables dans le cadre de leurs propres préférences.

En matière de théorie morale, je demeure, comme je l’ai toujours été, un constructiviste : les normes valides n’"existent" que pour autant qu’elles méritent une reconnaissance universelle. Mais c’est aux sujets eux-mêmes en tant qu’ils agissent moralement qu’il revient d’organiser la société selon de telles normes, et ce sont eux qui peuvent produire des relations morales. » 15    During mediation, the involved parties should be able to analyze their values, to think over the different values of the opposite party and to accept universal valid values.  These universal valid values create a common space of respect and recognition. Respect is needed for a cultural sensitization, which is another possibility to work against the Islamophobie.

« Il a été nécessaire de développer un programme de travail qui favorise une plus grande disponibilité  culturelle  et  une  meilleure  connaissance  des  caractères  réels  de  l`Islam, accompagnées d`un effort délicat de sensibilisation auprès des institutions politiques. » 16 Stereotypes and prejudices could be reduced in this way in Italy especially in Milan. The different involved organisations decide to organise events to sensitise the population and promote for the understanding between the cultural differences. This way is reasonable; it works in a pragmatic way, creates a good cohabitation and respects the conviction of the involved  persons.  E.g.,  Italian  Moslems  reached  that  the  following  responsibilities  are assumed: 17

  1. D`être reconnu sur des bases de dignité égale dans le contexte du dialogue interreligieux
  2. collaborer avec le ministère culturel, en organisant de manifestations et d`initiatives culturelles pour faire connaître les principes et la réalité de l`Islam
  3. intégration qualitative des immigrés musulmans.


Concluding remarks

The tension and the conflict between the Muslims in Zurich and the right party DUC appear clearly. In my opinion, this situation requires attention and action. If communication and dialogue will be possible by mediation, we achieve an acknowledging of another’s reasons. Each participant in the dialogue recognises that his/her position is not absolute.

Dialogue is also a capability to discuss one’s own positions. The ability to expose oneself from the beginning and without calculation to the words of another is necessary. Dialogue suggests recognition.

« Favoriser la possibilité de cette entente profonde, qui lie en principe et en pratique toute personne à l`autre, sans tomber dans un melting pot de fraternité syncrétiste ou de village global, revient à fortifier et à enrichir l`identité propre sans perdre la conscience des différences providentielles qui caractérisent chaque forme sur le plan de la manifestation divine ».  18

The syncretism approach makes it possible to analyse the influences, which constitute a religion, but it must stop before losing the identity. Monceri declares that syncretism as a form of interreligious dialogue may help to avoid the clash of civilisations. In my example, we clearly remark the meeting of two different cultures and that provokes tensions. I hope it will not end in a clash of civilisations. The necessity for an interreligious meeting grows with the consciousness of the global challenge with them we are staying today: Peace, justice, retaining the creation.

« Le développement d`un dialogue interreligieux et d`une éducation interculturelle au sein d`un système politique démocratique ou la laïcité de l`état permettait la libre expression et une participation active des communautés religieuses à la croissance de la société civile dans un climat de respect  de l`unité nationale et  d`un pluralisme sain,  semble être la caractéristique déterminante pour l`avenir. » 19



  2. Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation (as amended until October 15, 2002)
  3. Gianni Matteo : La vie musulmane en suisse. Profils identitaires, demandes et perceptions des musulmans en Suisse. Rapport réalisé par le Groupe de Recherche sur l’Islam en Suisse (GRIS). Commission fédérale des étrangers CFE, Berne
  4. Adriano Fabris : Religious Practices and Ethical Choices. Slides. MIC 2006, Module 14 Lugano
  5. Sandro Cattacin, Brigitta Gerber, Massimo Sardi, Robert Wegener: Monitoring misanthropy and rightwing extremist attitudes in Switzerland. An explorative study. Université de Genève, 2006.
  6. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : Le développement d`une nouvelle identité européenne islamique, Sensibilisation culturelle. MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  7. Adriano Fabris : Religious Practices and Ethical Choices.  MIC 2006, Module 14. Lugano
  8. Eddo Rigotti, Sara Greco. Intercultural communication: conflicts and opportunities MIC 2006, Module 5. Lugano
  9. Flavia Monceri: Religious Worldviews and Fundamental Ethical Options in Multicultural Europe. Slides. MIC 2006. Module 14. Lugano.
  10. Adriano Fabris : Religious Practices and Ethical Choices.  MIC 2006, Module 14. Lugano
  11. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : Le développement d`une nouvelle identité européenne islamique, Sensibilisation culturelle. MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  12. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : La responsabilité des musulmans européens dans le monde contemporain, MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  13. Flavia Monceri: Religious Worldviews and Fundamental Ethical Options in Multicultural Europe. MIC 2006. Module 14. Lugano.
  15. Jürgen Habermas : Un référendum pour une Constitution européenne.    Le Monde de l'éducation n° 290 Juillet-août 2001.
  16. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : Le développement d`une nouvelle identité européenne islamique, Sensibilisation culturelle. MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  17. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : La responsabilité des musulmans européens dans le monde contemporain, Le renouvellement. MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  18. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini : Le développement d`une nouvelle identité européenne islamique. MIC 2006, Module 14, Lugano
  19. Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavacini: L`avenir de la Civilisation Islamique Occidentale, Le Caire, 2003.