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24 I SPECIAL FEATURE Passion Islam I August 2008
Muslims in
between the ages of 10 and 20 are
counted double. Of the overall number
of Muslims in Switzerland, there are a
majority of ex-Yugoslavians
Yugoslavia: 108,058 Bosnia
Herzegovina: 23,457 Macedonia: 43,365
Croatia: 392 Slovenia: 102, followed by
Turks and Albanians, Turkey: 62,698
Albania: 699 and finally, we find the North
African and Middle Eastern immigrants,
Morocco: 4,364 Tunisia: 3,318 Algeria:
2,654 Egypt: 865 Libya: 489 Iraq: 3,171
Lebanon: 1,277 Syria: 459
The fact that statistics reveal the
presence of 169,726 Muslim men
compared to 141,081 Muslim women
demonstrates that the Muslim presence
has evolved and is no longer merely
due to a working immigration. Statistics
also show that the Muslim population
in Switzerland is rejuvenating. This
exile of people from
is another indication that the Muslim
the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia,
community is settling in the country. With
Immigration Waves
North Africa and other African countries.
all nationalities combined, there are less
Prior to 1960, the presence of Muslims than15 years old: 77’322 Between 15 and
within the Swiss population was rare. That
24: 59’867 Between 25 and 34: 59’932
changed with three waves of immigration:
Based on the census of the year 20001, the
Between 35 and 44: 46’125 Between 45
one economic-based, one family-
total Swiss population numbers 7,288,010.
and 54: 28’675 Between 55 and 64: 7’057
based, and one politically-based. The
Of this number, 310,807 are Muslims,
Between 65 and 74: 3’165 More than 75:
first wave, occurring in the late 1960’s,
meaning Muslims represent 4.3% of the
was mainly born of economic reasons
total population of Switzerland. An element
Relations between the State and the
and consisted chiefly of men coming to
that is important and interesting to note is
religious communities
work in Switzerland with no particular
that of the 310,807 Muslims in Switzerland,
Switzerland is a laic state. Nonetheless, the
intention to stay permanently in the
only 36,481 have Swiss nationality,
Swiss state recognizes both Catholicism
country. These immigrants were mostly
having been born Swiss nationals and/or
and Protestantism as official religions. The
from Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, and
converting to Islam (approximately one-
relations with the religious communities
Albania. The second wave came in the
half of the 36,481) or having gone through
are based on the fundamental rights to
late 1970’s after Switzerland changed
the process of naturalization to become
freedom of religion and philosophy and to
its legislation concerning foreigners to
Swiss citizens. These Swiss Muslims
equality before the law [2]. As a federation
allow family regrouping. This decision
represent 0.6% of the total population of
of states, all matters of religion fall under
had direct implications: from this point
Switzerland, a proportion which remains
the competence of the cantons within
on, Islam was no longer only a masculine
relatively low—low in comparison to other
the limits of federal (constitutional) law.
ephemeral social fact in Switzerland, but
Europeans countries—because access to
The only two cantons that have clearly
had become a reality with the presence of
Swiss nationality is passed along through
separated the state and religion are
families. The last wave is a political one
the bloodline and not merely by birth on
Geneva and Neuchatel. Coincidentally,
consisting of foreigners seeking asylum
Swiss territory. In general, foreigners
these are also the only two cantons that
from oppressive dictatorships, various civil
must have lived a total of 12 years in
have had to deal with legal cases with
wars, famines and other reasons. More
Switzerland before they may apply for
regards to wearing of the veil. Also of note
accurately, this is not a wave as much as
Swiss nationality. There is a facilitated
is a recent case of another type (from May
it is an ongoing movement since it started
procedure for foreigners married to Swiss
7, 2003): in Wallis, a Catholic canton, an
in the 1960’s (mainly from the Middle
citizens and for second generations.
imam from Macedonia was denied a work
East) and continues on today with the
Note that the years spent in Switzerland
permit (to work as an imam
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