The Mahmood Mosque in the city’s Forchstrasse is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week and on Saturday it opened its doors to the public with guided tours on offer. Indeed the mosque was the first ever to be built in Switzerland.
The mosque was actually built at the instigation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose traditions go back to 1889 in India. It purports to revive Islam in its original peaceful form.
The community has existed in Switzerland only since shortly after the Second World War and now numbers more than 800 members. Initially followers wanted to set up such a mosque in Germany but they failed to get the necessary permission. In 2005 a second place of worship serving the community, the Noor Mosque, was set up in Wigoltingen in the canton of Thurgau.
According to Sadaqat Ahmed, himself a Pakistani and the imam of the Mahmood Mosque since 2001, the movement has some 12 million followers worldwide with its centre in Pakistan, though the community there is not recognised as Muslim.
Back in the Sixties, there was much less of a fuss about building a mosque as would be expected today, bearing in mind the referendum of 2009 in which it was determined that no further minarets should be built in the country.
The protests 50 years ago were merely about the fact that the mosque was built on land owned by the city and that the movement, as a mere association, was not expected to pay any taxes. The current lease is valid until 2023.
The mayor at the time dismissed any criticism of the building of the mosque and said on the occasion of its inauguration in June 1963 that “as a Christian and Protestant City, Zurich was liberal and free-thinking enough to allow it to be built”.