Mosque in Swiss city of Winterthur that stirred controversy is to close
A mosque in the northern Swiss city of Winterthur near Zürich that has faced accusations of allowing hate preaching in the past will close its doors for good after the holy month of Ramadan ends on June 24.
Atef Sahnoun, the president of the An'Nur cultural association that runs the mosque, confirmed the closure to the SonntagsBlick newspaper, according to swissinfo, a service of the Swiss national broadcaster.
Sahnoun told Blick the association had been unable to find new premises.
In addition the mosque has been stricken by financial problems and is leaderless, with no one willing to take on the presidency, said the paper.
But public pressure may also have contributed to the closure of the mosque since it became the subject of allegations of allowing radicalization and hate speech by attendees.
The mosque was originally slated to close by the end of 2016, as the company that owned the property refused to renew the long-term lease, but the place a worship gained a temporary extension after a meeting in January.
The mosque was raided in November 2016, after its Imam was accused of having called on worshippers to murder other Muslims who refused to take part in communal prayers.
The umbrella association of Islamic organizations in Zürich (VIOZ) had suspended the mosque after the incident.
In an interview on the national broadcaster SRF in December, the mosque's president asserted that keeping tabs on worshippers who may be problematic is not part of his job.
He also denied that prayers being held at the mosque were radical in nature.
Around 350,000 and 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, around 12 percent of whom are Swiss citizens.
They represent a diverse community divided along ethnic and linguistic lines with around 80 percent originating from the Balkans region and Turkey.
Around 12-15 percent are said to actively practice their faith by regularly visiting one of about 250 mosques.
These are managed by Islamic communities which are organized mostly as small private associations as well as a small number of foundations.
While Muslims in Switzerland are generally well integrated, recent charges of radicalization in mosques in Winterthur and Geneva have led to questions about the surveillance of mosques, external influence and funding.
Saïda Keller-Messahli, the president of Forum for a Progressive Islam, says the situation in Switzerland is "alarming."
"Huge sums of money from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey are flowing to Switzerland," she told the NZZ newspaper.
She claimed the Saudi-funded Muslim World League, an NGO that promotes the spread of Islam, for example, supports at least 30 Albanian mosques where Salafist ideas are preached.
In November, the umbrella association of Islamic organizations in Zurich (VIOZ) suspended the troubled Winthertur mosque that was raided by police. An imam is suspected of inciting violence and became the subject of a criminal investigation.