Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Saturday, 7 November 2009

Swiss Muslims open mosque doors

A tram passes by the Mahmud Mosque and its minaret, Zurich (26 Oct 2009)
Swiss Muslims hope to promote better understanding of their religion

Muslims in many parts of Switzerland have invited the public into mosques - three weeks before a vote on whether to ban the construction of minarets.

Muslim organisations say they hope their open day will counter what they say are fears and prejudices.

The conservative group that initiated the vote - the largest party in the Swiss parliament - says minarets are a symbol of Muslim political power.

Opinion polls suggest the proposed ban will be rejected by voters.

A Muslim community leader in Zurich, Tamir Hadjipolu, said the proposal - launched by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) - was "open discrimination".

Preaching to the converted?

Switzerland is home to 400,000 Muslims, who have about 200 places of worship. Only four have a minaret, local media say.

The open day was held on Saturday in 12 cantons, including Geneva, Vaud and Freiburg.

"We hope these meetings will build a dialogue and better understanding," said Hisham Maizar, a senior Muslim representative in eastern Switzerland.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, who visited a mosque in Zurich, says the many non-Muslims who came enjoyed themselves.

But the debate is raging outside the building, our correspondent says, and the Muslims inside were likely to be preaching to the converted.

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