The two main Muslim organizations in Switzerland are seeking to develop a comprehensive umbrella organization for all Swiss Muslims. Theur vision, named "Umma Switzerland" could emerge as early as 2013.
These organizations identify the lack of infrastructure and Islamic religious education as the main problems that Muslims face in Switzerland.
To address these problems, the organizations are preparing for the election of a sort of "parliament" that will be representative of all Muslims living in Switzerland.
In Arabic, ummah means "community of all Muslims." For now a committee of specialists in public law and Islamic juristic board on the statutes by ensuring respect federal law and cantonal legislation.
The groundwork for the organization should be ready by the summer, said Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organizations of Switzerland (KIOS), one of the two organizations involved.
An election-test is planned in autumn in the city Basel. KIOS and its partner, the Federation of Islamic Organizations of Switzerland (FOIS) chose this district because it is a small territory with a large Muslim community, said Afshar.
If all goes well, genuine elections could take place next winter. Every Muslim living in Switzerland, regardless of nationality, may be a candidate, said the chairman of KIOS.
If it succeeds, Umma Switzerland will represent the approximately 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland,and allow them to speak with one voice and send requests to Swiss political authorities, even as to give recommendations in votes.
By joining, associations can aim to be better recognized by the state and the public, since the lack of infrastructure and Islamic religious education are the main problems that Muslims face, says Afshar.
The Swiss government is not expected to assist in the creation of the Muslim umbrella organization, since the country adheres strictly to the principle of separation between church and state prevailing in Switzerland.
However, the head of the fight against racism to the Federal Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Michele Galizia, explained that the umbrella organization is not going to have much of an impact on government policy on the national level, since "dialogue between the Swiss government and the Muslim community, which started in 2009, does not take place with organizations, but with civil society, with the Muslim population of Switzerland, religious or secular, Swiss or foreign.
"We invite our partners to reflect on the implementation at the cantonal and communal consensus document finalized by the end of 2011," says Michele Galizia.
"Dialogue with religious communities is not engaged in on the national level in Switzerland, but on the level of the cantons. The national government does not put any pressure on Muslims to unite, any more than it does Christians."
This view is not shared bt the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which belives the Swiss government should support the development of an umbrella organization for Muslims. In its report released Tuesday, the OSCE said that the fact that Muslims recognize their inability to create an umbrella organization should not be an excuse for government inaction.
The OSCE sees an increase in discrimination against Muslims in Switzerland. The OSCE recommends that Switzerland, therefore, should support and encourage the formation of an umbrella organization for Muslims. Positive action against discrimination would be hampered because the Muslims have no umbrella organization to advocate for their interests.
Not all Muslims welcome the idea of the organization.
"ICSS has known about the idea of ââcreating Umma Switzerland since 2009," said Blancho. "but we have not been informed about the details of implementing this project, and we do not see how it could be implimented.
"The organizations have neither the resources nor the necessary structures for such a project," he says.
"Les musulmans de Suisse organisent leur Â«parlementÂ» " AFP February 9, 2012
"Schweizer Muslime planen Parlament" basler Zeitung February 9, 0212
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today