Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
Over the past years news stories about Muslims in Switzerland were widely highlighted in the media, shedding some light on a community that was not fairly introduced to either the Swiss or the international societies.
Before the big fuss about the minarets ban, there was little information about Muslims in Switzerland, in terms of their challenges and contributions to the society which they are living in and belonging to.
Today, October 29, Swiss Muslims are demonstrating against Islamophobia and racism in the city of Bern by hosting a conference which is expected to be the largest Islamic festival to have occurred in Switzerland.
The conference is organized by The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) under the theme, “Day Against Islamophobia and Racism”. This conference is supported by a wide variety of groups both in Switzerland and across Europe, to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in the Swiss society.
As highlighted on the official website of ICCS, speakers of the conference include Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair- a well-known British journalist who converted to Islam in 2010, two prominent and influential leaders of Islamic communities - Sheikh Abdullah al-Samit Frank Bubenheim from Germany and Mufti Muamer Zukorlic from Sandžak.
On the other side, it is planned to include in the conference schedule special performances from Labbayk, an Islamic vocal group from the as well as one of the most popular singers in the Muslim Albanian Diaspora in Western Europe, Adem Ramadani.
One of the event's supporters is Yvonne Ridley, a well-known British journalist made famous for her capture by the Taliban in 2001 and her subsequent conversion to Islam.
Anti- Islam Agenda
The conference comes as an outcry from the Muslim community in Switzerland against what they define as "shocking attitudes" towards them directed by some political parties.
The conference comes as an outcry from the Muslim community in Switzerland against what they define as "shocking attitudes" towards them directed by some political parties like the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) - which was behind the referendum of banning the building of new minarets in the European country.
On November 29, 2009, The Swiss electorate voted in favor of the far-right call for a blanket ban on the construction of minarets, the issue that made Muslim leaders fear that the minaret ban would only be the first step to undermine their presence in Switzerland.
However the anti-Islam move in Switzerland have other manifestations, like ostracizing of Muslim women in the workplace because of wearing the veil (headscarf) and numerous debates surrounding the banning of the face veil (the niqab).
A bill initiated by the SVP far-right party entitled “Masks off”- which was approved on September 28, 2011 by Switzerland’s lower house of parliament - called for the ban of wearing face-veils in public places.
"At a time when insecurity is growing in our streets, more and more people are hiding their faces behind a balaclava, a mask or a burqa,” said Oskar Freysinger, a lawmaker of the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP), reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"This makes it impossible to identify these people, a fact that is particularly troublesome in case of violence or identity checks."
"Day Against Islamophobia and Racism" conference comes as "a chance for Muslims and non-Muslims to stand together and support one another to ensure a fundamental human right: the freedom of religion."
"It is an ideal chance for attendees to gain a closer insight into the life of Muslims in Switzerland," as mentioned on the official site.
It is highlighted through the conference posters and brochures that the day aims to stifle the growth of Islamophobia ideology that has the capacity of destroying the framework of a social order where Muslims can both exercise their religious rights and function as part of the Swiss society without discrimination or fear of reprisals.