Radical Muslims plan biggest Swiss mosque
The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) is trying to raise enough funds in the Gulf states to enable the construction of a 20-million franc ($21 million) prayer centre in the capital Bern.
With three storeys, the planned mosque would be the biggest in the country. In addition to a prayer room for 270 men and 174 women, plans show that the building would have conference and training rooms, shops, underground parking and a garden.
The president of the Council, Nicolas Blancho, confirmed his fundraising activities in Kuwait and Qatar to newspapers SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday, although he said the organisation has not received any donations yet.
“For the time being, we’re just building relationships of trust with potential sponsors,” said Blancho, adding that searching for donors is a long process.
Last year, the president of ICCS visited Kuwait and Qatar several times where he met with “businessmen and high level statesmen”, not just to talk about money, "but also to have intellectual exchanges,” explained the 28-year-old Swiss.
Blancho said he also presented to his interlocutors the council’s idea of launching a popular initiative to counter the ban on the construction of minarets that was approved in a referendum in November 2009.
Aside from the massive mosque, the ICCS also has other smaller projects, such as founding an Islamic school in Switzerland, and setting up a travel agency for pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina.
According to the Swiss convert, his contacts in Gulf countries are financially clean and any donations would be made within a legal framework. However, ICCS has never previously made its financial resources public, says the SonntagsZeitung.
ICCS mainly represents orthodox Sunni Muslims. It was founded two and a half years ago by a small group of young Swiss converts to Islam in the light of the referendum to ban the construction of minarets.
ICCS has about 2,000 members, and has organized several controversial rallies in Bern. At its latest demonstration in October, the organisation chose a symbol reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David to draw parallels between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and Muslims in the Alpine country of today. The move infuriated the Jewish community.