Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Akhir / Jamadiul Awwal 1423 H
July 2002
Volume 15-07 No:187

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Travelogue


Land of Museums and Muslim Carnivals


Land of Museums and Muslim Carnivals

Islam has become very popular in Geneva.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the city which boasts to have the second largest complex of the UN
after New York, the spiritual life of Muslims in Geneva remains untouched by the strides of westernisation

By Malika B. Mistry

Recently, I visited Geneva to participate in the Neelan Tiruchelvam Training Seminar and later in the meeting of the UN Working Group on Minorities. At first glance, I could hardly spot any Muslims here, but the existence of three mosques in Geneva lifted my spirits - the biggest mosque is located at the Petit Sacconnex Bus Terminus.

This mosque belongs to the Islamic Cultural Foundation of Geneva. Two decades ago, there were no facilities for Muslims in Geneva to learn about Islam, Islamic culture and to carry out activities according to Islamic rules. It was then that King Faisal of Saudi Arabia helped out in building the biggest mosque in 1977 and it was inaugurated by King Khalid in 1978. King Fahd created an awkaf in the name of the Islamic Cultural Foundation. Since then, the mosque has been expanded as the number of worshippers visiting the mosque increased. For the Friday prayers, over 1500 to 2000 people from all over Geneva visit this mosque. Geneva has a Muslim population of 15,000 in its total population of 4,50,000. In Switzerland, Islam seems to be the fastest growing religion. While the percentage of Protestants grew by 2 per cent, Catholics declined by 8 per cent and Muslims increased by 12 per cent. The Foundation has full-time staff members, a director, an imam, a librarian and a media officer. Mehmood, an Egyptian who is the director, has dedicated his life for the activities of the Foundation. The mosque also comprises a school where children are enrolled into the study of the Quran. The morgue provides facilities for burial of the dead including bathing of the bodies.

In the Swiss schools, the Muslim children are not exposed to the Islamic principles and values and the existence of the school attached to the mosque is a boon to the kids. The Foundation conducts a regular part-time Arabic language course for non-Arabic speaking people. Spending time at the library in the Foundation is an unique experience by itself as one can get engrossed in books on Islam and Muslims in French, Arabic and English. The Foundation has four clubs within its premises - a club for Muslim men, club for Muslim women, club for Young Muslim boys and the club for young Muslim girls.

The clubs provide the community life to the Muslims and the children here who otherwise get lost in the glitter and glamour of the western world. Through these clubs, the Foundation organises Quran recitation competitions for kids and tours and picnics are a regular affair too. Geneva has many Muslims who have migrated from Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Sudan. Twice a year, Muslim cultural programmes called as Muslim Carnival are organised to bring the Muslims together. This year, the ailing King of Saudi Arabia who had arrived in Switzerland to recuperate had sent food packets to be distributed as gifts to the Muslim kids at the Carnival.

From Geneva, I travelled to Cartigny village which is 10 minutes distance by bus. A sleepy village located on an agricultural plateau, it is surrounded by farms and wild grass. On the hills, one can see grape vines. Cartigny is a perfect holiday spot, though there are no recreational facilities around.

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