Friday, December 11, 2009

Switzerland: Trouble finding the hate preachers

Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche reports on an a study of Swiss imams.

Switzerland has about 200 mosques, but nobody really knows what is preached in them.

Neither does the government, who investigated the issue. The study was presented to the parliamentary security committee. The media asked for it to be published, but the government classified it as confidential.

The Federal Council says that it's not being published since it doesn't include anything which hasn't been dealt with in the media before.

The 17 page study "Islamist Imams", is dated from Jan. 29, 2008. It apparently contains several controversial findings.

The study begins by saying that most Muslims can practice their faith while following the constitution. Religion is rarely the main reason for integration problems.

A minority of imams, however, preach radically, in a way which prevents the integration of Muslims. At least 8 imams in a dozen mosques preach a radical interpretation of Islam. These mosques are located in the cantons of Geneva, Neuenburg (2), Vaud (2), Valais, Bern, Basel (2), Lucerne and Zurich (2). These mosques are mostly Arab mosques, and seven of the eight imams are North Africans. This corresponds to the known pattern that most of the Islamist activists in Switzerland are Arabs.

It's possible that these eight imams are just the tip of the iceberg, since there is a shortage of data and resources. The report says that it isn't possible to know how many imams carry on extremist and violent propaganda, or in how many mosques such an Islamist vision is being preached. The reason is legal barriers for intelligence gathering and lack of specific studies.

The report notes that the DAP, the Swiss Security Service, has no concrete information about preaching ongoing in the 200 Swiss mosques. There is only one exception: an imam in the Canton of Bern (apparently in Biel), who 'voluntarily' handed in to the authorities eight of his sermons made in 2000 to 2004.

The imam, who preaches a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, supports suicide attacks in the occupied areas of the Muslim world. He also says regularly that Jihadists in these regions should be encouraged and asked his flock for financial support for Jihadists.

According to the report, the sermons were usually explosive. He preached about the eternal irreconcilability between the Christian 'crusaders' and the Muslims. The imam told his listeners that violent Jihad against non-Muslims could also be practiced in the West, once converts to Islam will achieve a critical mass.

Quoting the Koran, the imam taught that Muslims were called for violence against Christians and Jews to get them to submit to Islamic domination.

The Muslims were urged not to submit to a non-Islamic secular order. It was necessary to champion violent Jihad in order to establish an Islamic state in the Arab world and to re-establish the Caliphate. The preacher called specifically for violent Jihad against the Crusaders in the Arab world, particularly in Iraq. The moderate Muslims were branded the 'worst enemies of Islam'.

This imam was also one of the organizers of the protest against the Danish Mohammed cartoons, which took place on Feb. 2006 in the Bundesplatz. About 600 people attended, almost all Arabs, and a few dozen Salafists, according to the report.

The hate preaching of the imams has an effect. A young Tunisian, who was radicalized under the influence of the imam, went to Syria in 2005 and then to Iraq to join the Jihad. In Iraq he joined the 'martyr's brigade', fighting for the local al-Qaeda. Apparently the Tunisian from the Bern mosque couldn't achieve his wish for an act of martyrdom, and he was killed by the coalition forces in April 2006.

In addition to the imam from Biel, the report mentions other examples of hate preachers. In the mosque of Kriens, a Libyan with a permanent residence permit incites his followers to violence. The report says that it's said that he calls the Swiss apes and infidel pigs and supports their extermination. While the report was being written the man was still active in calling for violence in occupied Muslim areas, whether perceived or real.

The information about the Kriens imam is based on 'hearsay'. Which indicates a basic problem for Swiss intelligence: by law their work ends at the door to the mosque. The Muslim mosques are considered private areas, and the intelligence services have their hands tied. They cannot tape the sermons, neither video nor audio. In order to know what is being taught in the mosques, the intelligence services need a person who is continuously in the mosque, who knows the language and who memorizes the sermons.

Once an imam is identified as a hate preacher, there are means to confront him, which are described in the report as 'adequate'. These only apply if the imam is officially registered in Switzerland. For 'unofficial' imams, who come to Switzerland for a limited amount of time and then move on, the available resources to confront them are 'limited'.

The report suggests several ways to deal with the phenomenon of Islamist imams. The Federal Office for Migration was commissioned to check the possibility by the end of 2008 of a Swiss university project to study the number, original and theological bent of official Swiss imams. The Justice Ministry was asked to submit proposals by mid-2009, on how to better control the entry of hate preachers. And the Ministry of Internal Affairs was asked to develop imam training following the example of other European countries.

When Weltwoche tried to check on whether these proposals were followed, they got the run-around.

An attempt to change the law and allow for intelligence gathering in the private space did not pass parliament.

Source: Weltwoche (German), h/t PI

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