Growing up as a Swiss Muslim in the shadow of 9/11

Growing up as a Swiss Muslim in the shadow of 9/11


Growing up as a Swiss Muslim in the shadow of 9/11
 Over 391,000 Muslims now name Switzerland dwelling. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Young Swiss Muslims are not prepared to simply accept growing ranges of anti-Islam sentiment.This content material was printed on September 21, 2021 –

Maymunah Ahmed stands out from the crowds as she navigates her means up the cobblestone pathway to the metropolis of Bern’s iconic Rose Garden viewpoint in her conventional Islamic apparel. The abaya gown and darkish inexperienced hijab she wears stay an unusual sight in the Swiss capital.

“Go home, take your headscarf off. I’ve experienced it all” she recollects wanting over the purple tiled rooftops of the medieval outdated city throughout an interview with in Bern. “I can imagine that my outward appearance is problematic for some people, but that by no means warrants the everyday discrimination that I face”.

Twenty years on from 9/11, younger Swiss Muslims are going through rising ranges of anti-Islam sentiment, stirred up by political debates and media narratives that create divides between Switzerland’s Muslims and the wider group.


MoreHow anti-Muslim sentiment has gone mainstreamThis content was published on Sep 21, 2021Two decades of the “War on Terror” has had a drastic effect on the lives of Muslims in western countries.

Of Mauritanian and Somali descent, Maymunah arrived in the nation at the age of two after her dad and mom fled to Switzerland as refugees. She is now saving up for medical college in Bern and is one of the roughly 391,000 Muslims over the age of 15 that make up about 5.4% of Switzerland’s populationExternal link.

“I’ve been told I should go back to my homeland, that I should leave the country,” she says when requested about residing in Switzerland. “There are areas in which I definitely feel welcome… but there are undoubtably also moments where I have reservations and question whether I’m safe.”

While there have been Muslims residing in Switzerland for tons of of years, the majority of at the moment’s Swiss Muslim communities arrived as visitor employees from Turkey, Bosnia, and Kosovo in the Nineteen Sixties. The liberalisation of immigration insurance policies in 1991 allowed these employees to convey their households, many of which fled from conflicts in the Balkans.

Between 1960 and 2000, the quantity of Muslims in SwitzerlandExternal link elevated from 2,703 to 310,807, making it the third largest non secular group in the nation.

Growing up in a rural city with solely 10,000 pre-dominantly white inhabitants, it was initially Maymunah’s pores and skin color that was the supply of her discrimination, she says. However, in the final twenty years she perceived a shift in attitudes in direction of Muslims and now says she more and more faces discrimination as a result of of her perception in Islam.Play Video

Breaking level

The rise of violent Islamist teams concentrating on the West spurred a hardening of attitudes in direction of Switzerland’s Muslim minority. “Before 9/11 it was the nationality that people focused on, after it became religion,” says Önder Güneş, spokesperson of the Swiss Federation of Islamic Umbrella OrganisationsExternal link (FIDS). In the eyes of the wider Swiss inhabitants, the assaults turned migrants into Muslims, and Muslims into radicals, he explains.

The 9/11 assaults had been adopted by additional assaults in Europe, together with the Madrid practice bombings in 2004 and the 2005 London Underground bombings, which killed 191 and 56 individuals respectively.

These assaults heralded the arrival of Islamic terrorism in Europe and introduced the risk to Switzerland’s doorstep. They politicised Islam and led to the building of a media narrative in which Muslims had been offered as the trigger of societal issues.

A 2017 studyExternal link by the Federal Commission Against Racism (EKR) demonstrated that Swiss print media disproportionately centered on themes that don’t symbolize the on a regular basis experiences of Muslims. Of newspaper articles that handled the subject of Islam, 54% centered on themes of “radicalisation” or “terrorism”. Narratives of “successful integration” and “everyday life”, had been every talked about in solely 2% of articles.

The problematisation of Muslims additionally seeped onto the political stage. In 2009, Switzerland voted in a referendum to ban the constructing of minarets. This was adopted by a vote to ban ladies from carrying each the burqa and niqab, two varieties of Islamic costume that conceal a lady’s face, in public. Despite estimations that solely a few dozen Muslim ladies in Switzerland wore such garments, the ban was accepted by a slim majority of 51.2% in March 2021. Both votes had been triggered by members of the conservative, right-wing Swiss People’s Party.

This follows a pattern of different European nations which have equally banned full face coverings. In 2011 France grew to become the first nation in the world to ban the carrying of face veils in public, with the Netherlands enacting comparable laws in 2012, and Austria following swimsuit in 2017.


MoreSwiss ‘burka ban’ accepted by slim majorityThis content was published on Mar 7, 2021Supporters of the initiative to ban face coverings in public have carried the day with a majority of 51.2%.

While these referendums have little direct influence on the lives of most Swiss Muslims, emotions of “suspicion and aggressivity towards Muslims peak” when controversial referenda and political debates on Islam abound, says Dr Mallory Schneuwly Purdie, senior researcher at the Swiss Centre for Islam and SocietyExternal link. This ensures that since 9/11, Swiss Muslims have “perceived an increased feeling of discrimination and racism”, explains Dr Schneuwly Purdie.

In reality, a research printed by the Swiss National Office of StatisticsExternal link in 2019 confirmed that Muslims skilled discrimination on the grounds of faith greater than another non secular group in Switzerland. The Support Network for Victims of RacismExternal link, in the meantime, registered a rise from 23 reported circumstances of Islam associated discrimination in 2010, to 55 in 2020, with unreported circumstances seemingly being a lot increased.

Political discourse portray Islam as a downside has pushed some Muslims to discover their religion extra deeply. Since others noticed and handled them as “just Muslims”, they determined to make Islam a stronger half of their identities, says Dr Schneuwly Purdie.

Albana Azemi and her mom, for instance, solely started carrying headscarves in 2009 when the referendum on the building of Mosque minarets pushed them to confront what it meant to be a Muslim. “The minaret ban forced me to decide between my Islamic and Swiss identities, but I decided that I’m both”, explains Albana, sitting at the kitchen desk in a gray hijab and black gown.

Like many Muslims with Balkan origins, Albana’s father got here to Switzerland as a visitor employee in 1988. The relaxation of her household adopted shortly after. With a re-invigorated connection to Islam, she and her household now pray commonly, utilizing the prayer mats she has tucked away below the couch in the front room.

She remembers watching the 9/11 assaults unfold on tv when she was solely 11 years outdated. Twenty years later, she recognises that the media discourse and referendums that adopted have considerably formed her expertise rising up in Switzerland.

After the ban on full face coverings got here into impact earlier this yr, Albana says individuals on the road approached her to inform her that she was not allowed to put on the hijab, or Muslim scarf, which not like the burqa and niqab doesn’t conceal a lady’s face. “Many didn’t even know what they voted for”, she says in disbelief, blaming political and media discourse for legitimising discrimination towards Muslims.Play Video

Making integration troublesome

Experiencing discrimination could make integration into Swiss society all the tougher, particularly in the office. “When I decided to wear the headscarf, I was fired from my job straight away. If you work in a client facing role and want to wear a hijab, you can forget it,” Albana, who presently works from dwelling as a buyer assist consultant, says with a wry giggle.

Hers is just not a distinctive expertise. While each female and male Muslims can expertise difficulties on the lookout for jobs, it’s particularly troublesome for veiled Muslim ladies, in response to spokesman Güneş.

reportExternal link by Anaïd Lindemann of the University of Lausanne lays out the interconnected causes for this. A hijab is seen as a clear marker of the faith and makes the lady’s connection to Islam specific. This intersects with the discrimination that a lady would already face on account of her gender, as nicely as the (incorrect) notion that hijab carrying ladies have to be foreigners.

Therefore, whereas visibly Muslim ladies are sometimes criticised for failing to combine correctly, they’re concurrently barred from doing so by discriminatory office practices. “Where should these women integrate, how should these be a part of the society, part of the workforce, if they aren’t allowed to practice their religion how they see fit?” asks Güneş.

Although these challenges aren’t


MoreSwiss press paints Muslims in negative lightThis content was published on Sep 3, 2018Most Swiss newspaper articles on Muslims convey a negative story, according to a recent study.

new or distinctive to Switzerland, a younger era of Swiss Muslims is pushing again. While the first era of Muslim immigrants that arrived in Switzerland noticed this discrimination as being half and parcel of residing in a overseas land, their youngsters who establish as Swiss are far much less accepting.

“My parents were just focused on surviving.” says Maymunah, who makes use of social media such as TikTok to make movies selling and defending the rights of Swiss Muslims. “They had a guest mentality, and were grateful for just being here, but I grew up here and I expect the same rights as every other person… I’m a Swiss citizen, and I’m a Swiss Muslim, even if society doesn’t want to accept that.”

“This is our home. I have my roots here. I went to school here, studied here, and I’m not planning on leaving.” says Albana, who’s now elevating her youngsters in the Swiss metropolis of Lucerne that she has lived in all her life. “We are here and we’re a part of society, and people have to accept that.”

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