(*the above sentence literally translates as “For the churchization of Islam”)

A conference held by the Faculty of Theology, the Lehrhaus Foundation and the Dialogue Institute in Zürich recently addressed the question of the public relevance of religion, especially in light of the recent ban on minarets which suggested that the public manifestation of religion is to be avoided. The conference focused on the cultural context of religion, the necessity of communicating with different religious currents as well as the desire of religion to have an influence on society as well as within the state. The latter is left with the responsibility to oversee the former and ensure its compatibility with the rule of law, and to attribute a place to religious institutions.

One participant, the theologian and jurist Cla Reto Famos, stated that the regulation of relations between the state and religious communities has currently reached an impasse. The conference went on to make numerous comparisons between Switzerland, Germany and Austria, while also examining the case of the Swiss Jewish community compared to the Swiss Muslim community with regard to demands for official recognition at the local canton level. Andreas Kley, law professor at the University of Zurich, brought up the special circumstances in which the Catholic Church had been able to grow thanks to compromises made with the state. He equally emphasized how it had been able to exert political influence through its “natural law” teachings and thanks to its influence in business and social circles.

Institutionalization for this conference referred to the withdrawal of an organization from the narrow domain of the state and the consolidation of the said organization. Participants like Kley did not see any particular difficulties for such an institutionalization in the case of Muslim organizations, as the respect of the secular rule of law in and of itself should not pose any problems. Nonetheless, he followed by saying that Muslim groups must be sure to respect equal rights for men and women, human rights and religious self-determination (including the renunciation of religious beliefs).

The main difficulty towards this process of institutionalization was raised by the president of the Protestant community, Thomas Wipf. He mentioned the fragmentation of Islamic organization into nationally-defined associations as being often directly related to the sensitive nature of questions regarding political recognition. He equally called for greater competency of the part of the state, which at the very least should be a partner for continual dialogue.

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