Government opposed to state-backed training for imams

The Islamic Cultural Centre in Wil, canton St Gallen. © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The government has decided against introducing state-run training courses for imams as a way of preventing the potential radicalisation of extremist preachers.

This content was published on August 18, 2021 - 12:34, dos

A religious neutrality clause in the Swiss constitution and an international comparison led the government to its conclusion that state training is “unsuitable”, it said on Wednesday.

The statement came in response to a 2016 call by parliament to examine ways of preventing “Islamic proselytising” and to better use the potential of imams to integrate Muslims in society.

While it agrees with the integration aim, the government said that official training would run against the state’s obligation to remain neutral towards religions and not to interfere in religious communities.

Promoting more “professionalisation” and private training courses for the occupation – not just imams but all sorts of religious and spiritual guidance figures – is a better way of ensuring such people promote integration rather than division, the government said.

The state also wants to in future bring more spiritual workers into official institutions like the army, hospitals, the asylum system, and the justice system, the government said – when they are “moderate”, they can be an important force against radicalisation.

The government also based its decision on a study comparing eight other European countries, none of which provide official state training for imams.

Ministers however also recommended that parliament adopt a motion raised by a Senate committee calling for better control of religious figures who do spread radical ideas through their preaching.

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