“It is time to hand over the mosque in Geneva to a Swiss executive board, which is representative, with an elected president board: a mosque integrated into Swiss democracy,” Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Saudi Arabia-based Muslim World League, told Le Matin Dimanche.
Management and financing of the mosque, which is situated in the neighborhood of Petit-Saconnex, should be ensured by Swiss Muslims, he said. Funding could some from member donations and private donations, he added.
The construction of the mosque was financed by Saudi Arabia. It was inaugurated in 1978 by former Saudi king Khalid bin Abdulaziz and is the biggest in Switzerland, being able to host 1,500 worshippers. MWL has been underwriting a substantial part of the mosque’s finances.
The mosque has however attracted scrutiny from French and Swiss authorities over possible links to extremists.
Similar measures to those in Geneva have been taken around the world in collaboration with national authorities, Al-Issa explained in the interview. “Foremost for security reasons. We have to ensure that the mosques are in safe hands, of course. After that we will not need to intervene.”
The Islamic Cultural Foundation of Geneva, which had been involved in the running of the mosque and which is linked to the MWL, will become a separate entity and work on dialogues between the religions, both in Switzerland and abroad, the former Saudi justice minister said.
At the end of 2017, four mosque employees were fired and the management changed after Al-Issa visited the institution. The four French employees, including two imams, had reportedly been placed by French officials on a backlist known as “Fiche S”. This is reserved for individuals who are considered potential threats to French national security.
In 2015, the Tribune de Genève reported that 20 young extremists had attended the mosque for several months, two of whom allegedly travelled to Syria.
Al-Issa told Le Matin Dimanche that three essential objectives had not been achieved at the mosque. “The mosque should have become a cohesion factor. Representatives from other religions should have been able to rely on it. And finally, a place of worship shouldn’t keep on being a subject of concern and debate. So instead of closing it, we are giving it to everyone. That’s a better solution, isn’t it?”