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Imams in Switzerland

A ZHAW study shows that continuing education does more to prevent Islamic terrorism than compulsory training.

Whenever the appearances of so-called hate preachers come into the public spotlight, there are regularly calls for imams to undergo compulsory training in Switzerland. Unlike for the Christian clergy, however, there is no such offering in this country. Would it be possible to offer training of this kind? And would it even be a suitable means to prevent people becoming radicalised by extremist preachers?

Lack of Muslim support figures

The Federal Office of Justice and the State Secretariat for Migration tasked a research team at the Institute of Diversity and Social Integration of the ZHAW School of Social Work with clarifying these questions. According to the study, the answer is no in both cases. On the one hand, it would simply be impossible to offer good training courses for imams here in Switzerland, as there are too many orientations and language affiliations within Islam. On the other, the study revealed that the vast majority of imams in Switzerland practice a moderate form of Islam. In terms of radicalisation, their role is overstated. Furthermore, hateful rhetoric usually comes from travelling preachers who come to Switzerland and only stay here for a short time, meaning they would not be subject to any training obligation.

What the study made clear is that there is a lack of Muslim support figures in Switzerland in general, for example in the area of pastoral care and other fields of social work. This is a problem insofar as they could take on an important preventive function in countering the risk of radicalisation in areas such as youth work or in hospitals and prisons. They could also play a role through the provision of religious teaching or private tutoring for children as well as in promoting the integration of women and other target groups.