Islam in Switzerland

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The Ahmadiyya mosque in Zurich (built in 1963).

Islam in Switzerland has mostly arrived via immigration since the late 20th century. Numbering below 1% of total population in 1980, the fraction of Muslims in the population of permanent residents in Switzerland has quintupled in thirty years, estimated at just above 5% as of 2013.[2] A majority is from Former Yugoslavia (estimated at 56% as of 2010, most of them from Kosovo); an additional 20% (2010 estimate) is from Turkey. The vast majority of Muslims in Switzerland adheres to the Sunni branch.[3] Some famous Muslims of Switzerland include Tariq Ramadan, Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt and Isabelle Eberhardt.


The largest concentration of Muslim population is in the German speaking Swiss plateau. The cantons with more than 5% Muslim population are:[4]

Geneva is the only non-German-speaking canton where the Muslim population (6.24%) is slightly above the average (5.40%).[4] Another remarkable demographic feature in comparison to other European countries is the relatively equal distribution throughout the country[not in citation given][5] (compare Islam in the United Kingdom). No administrative unit has more than 8.55%[citation needed] of Muslim population, and no town or village more than 16.8%.[citation needed] The lowest percentage of Muslims in a canton is 1.82%[citation needed] (the Italian-speaking Ticino).

88.3% of Muslims in Switzerland are foreigners (56.4% from former Yugoslavia, mostly Bosniaks, and Albanians from Kosovo), 20.2% from Turkey and 6% from Africa (3.4% from North Africa).[6] 10,000 of the 400,000 Muslims could be converts.[7]


In the 10th century, Arabs and Amazighs from their Mediterranean Fraxinet base settled in the Valais for a few decades. They occupied the Great St. Bernard Pass and even managed to reach as far as St. Gallen to the north and Raetia in the east.[8]

Islam was virtually absent from Switzerland until the 20th century. It appeared with the beginning of significant immigration to Europe, after World War II. A first mosque was built in Zürich in 1963 by the Ahmadiyya community. Muslim presence during the 1950s and 1960s was mostly due to the presence of international diplomats and rich Saudi tourists in Geneva.

Substantial Muslim immigration began in the 1970s, and accelerated dramatically over the 1980s to 1990s. In 1980, there were 56,600 Muslims in Switzerland (0.9% of total population). This ratio quintupled over the following thirty years, notably due to the immigration from Former Yugoslavia during the 1990s Yugoslav War. While the Muslim demographics is still growing rapidly, the rate of growth has decreased after the early 1990s. The growth rate corresponded to a factor of 2.7 over the 1980s (10% per annum), a factor of 2.0 over the 1990s (7% p.a.), and a factor of about 1.6 over the 2000s (5% p.a.).[9]

The burka was outlawed in the canton of Ticino after a citizen initiative to hold a referendum. With 65% in favour of a ban and it was ruled that the ban was constitutional, the ban took effect in July 2016. Those who violate the law face a fine of up to CHF 10,000.[10]

In 2018, a Muslim couple was denied citizenship when they refused to answer questions from members of the Lausanne naturalisation board if they were asked by people of the opposite sex. Their behaviour was found to disrespect a fundamental principle of the Swiss constitution, equality between men and women.[11]

In September 2018, a ban on face-covering veils was approved with a 67% vote in favour in the canton of St Gallen. The largest Islamic community organisation in Switzerland, the Islamic Central Council, recommended that Muslim women continue to cover their faces.[12]


Swiss Muslim organizations begin to form in the 1980s. An umbrella organization (GIOS, Gemeinschaft islamischer Organisationen der Schweiz) was formed in Zürich in 1989. Numerous organizations were formed during the 1990s to 2000s, including

  • 1994 Organisation Muslime und Musliminnen der Schweiz
  • 1995 Vereinigung Islamischer Organisationen Zürich (VIOZ), Zurich
  • 1997 Basler Muslim Kommission, Basle
  • 2000 Koordination Islamischer Organisationen Schweiz (KIOS), Berne
  • 2002 Vereinigung islamischer Organisationen des Kantons Luzern (VIOKL), Lucerne
  • 2003 Dachverband islamischer Gemeinden der Ostschweiz und des Fürstentums Liechtenstein
  • 2006 Föderation Islamischer Dachorganisationen in der Schweiz (FIDS)
  • 2009 Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS; German Islamischer Zentralrat Schweiz IZRS), Berne. IZRS is a comparatively minor organisation (with an estimated 960 members in 2010) but has a disproportionate media presence because of its radical Salafist orientation and because a disproportionate number of its members (an estimated 10%) are native Swiss converts.[13]


Mosque of the Turkish cultural association in Wangen bei Olten.

There are two Swiss mosques which predate 1980 and the rapid increase of immigration of Muslims from the Balkans and Turkey over the following decades. Today, there are numerous mosques and prayer rooms across the country, predominantly in the urban parts of the Swiss plateau.[14]

In 2007 the Bern city council rejected plans to build one of the largest Islamic cultural centers in Europe.[15]

Four Swiss mosques have minarets, there is a mosque in Zurich, a mosque in Geneva, a mosque in Winterthur, a mosque in Wangen bei Olten. The latter was erected in 2009 following several years of political and legal disputes. In the wake of the Wangen minaret controversy, a popular initiative was passed with 57.5% of the popular vote in November 2009, introducing a ban on the construction of new minarets. The four existing minarets are not affected by the ban.[16][17] Although the Swiss People's Party received the popular vote, their campaign was particularly shocked[citation needed] by the conversion to Islam of Daniel Streich, a council member within the party. The campaign also prompted concerns from other countries of how the Swiss electorate is increasingly shifting towards the right.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050". Pew Research Center. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  2. ^ The Federal Statistical Office reported the religious demographics as of 2013 as follows (based on the resident population older than 15 years): total population of Muslims aged 15 or older: 341,572 (confidence interval ±1.8%, i.e. ±6150, based on a total (100%) of 6,744,794 registered resident population above 15 years). This corresponds to 5.1%±0.1% of total (adult) population. "Ständige Wohnbevölkerung ab 15 Jahren nach Kanton und Religions- und Konfessionszugehörigkeit 2013" (XLS). (Statistics) (in German). Neuchâtel: Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Statistik, Bundesamt für (2019-01-29). "Ständige Wohnbevölkerung ab 15 Jahren nach Religionszugehörigkeit und Kanton - 2017 | Tabelle". Bundesamt für Statistik (in German). Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  5. ^ Islam in Switzerland
  6. ^ Bovay, Claude; Raphaël Broquet (December 2004), Recensement fédéral de la population 2000 (pdf) (in French), Neuchâtel: Federal Statistical Office, pp. 49–50, ISBN 3-303-16074-0, retrieved 21 August 2010
  7. ^ Marbach, Patrick (21 June 2010). "Les Suisses se tournent vers l'islam par amour". 20 minutes (in French). 20 minutes Romandie SA. p. 6.
  8. ^ Manfred, W: "International Journal of Middle East Studies", pages 59-79, Vol. 12, No. 1. Middle East Studies Association of North America, Aug 1980.
  9. ^ Wohnbevölkerung nach Religion (
  10. ^ "Muslims face fines up to £8,000 for wearing burkas in Switzerland". The Independent. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Couple denied Swiss citizenship over handshake refusal". SWI Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  12. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "Swiss canton becomes second to ban burqas in public". U.S. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  13. ^ Katia Murmann, Schweiz am Sonntag, 17 April 2010.
  14. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2006 Switzerland
  15. ^ Bern city says no to Islamic cultural centre, Swissinfo, June 1, 2007
  16. ^ Rightwingers want nationwide vote on minarets, Swissinfo, May 3, 2007
  17. ^ Swiss Referendum Stirs a Debate About Islam. Wall Street Journal Europe, 06 November 2009

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