Study finds international Islamist groups have limited Swiss clout

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 The mosque at Grand-Sacconex, canton Geneva. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Claims that international Islamist movements exert significant influence over mosques and Muslim communities in Switzerland are exaggerated, a study has found.This content was published on March 30, 2022 – 19:22March 30, 2022 – 19:22


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While international networks and money from places like Saudi Arabia or Qatar help in the setting up of structures in Switzerland, such influence tends to fade as the structures become more established, according to the University of Fribourg.

The studyExternal link looked at the influence of groups and movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabism, Tablighi Jamaat, and Lebanon-based Al-Ahbash on seven Muslim communities in Lausanne, Zurich, Basel, Bern and Delémont.

While the authors found that all the Swiss communities which they researched had some kind of a link to transnational groups, the extent was varied, and foreign influence in general has declined over the past years.

Shifting scene

They say this is due partly to critical oversight in the public sphere – including in the media –  as well as to a generational shift which has seen younger, well-educated and well-integrated Muslims visiting the mosques, who tend to be less tolerant of influence by distant actors.

The mosque in Petit-Sacconex in Geneva, for example, which in the past generated negative headlines about its extremist links, has more recently tried to distance itself from Saudi influence and to adapt more to the local reality of its members.

The Swiss federal system also plays a role in minimising foreign influence, the researchers said: unlike in France and Germany, there is no Swiss-wide network of Islamists or Wahhabis aiming to spread its message nationally. Rather, mosques tend to look towards local or cantonal umbrella organisations for coordination and representation.


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