27 Oct 2017

The masterminds behind political Islam

Saïda Keller-Messahli, a writer and human rights activist, describes the close connections between the mosques in Austria, Switzerland and Germany and accuses authorities of being naive about the threat of jihadism.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
The masterminds behind political Islam - NewsMavens
Mosque. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Saïda Keller-Messahli, President of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, does not want to understand religion as a corset of prohibitions and commandments. She is committed to a contemporary Islam and to curbing the rise of extreme Islamism.

The Tunisian-Swiss writer and human rights activist knows what she’s talking about. For years, she has been dealing with Islamic associations and mosques in Switzerland and Europe -- and she has witnessed disturbing developments.

She has now written a book entitled "Islamistische Drehscheibe Schweiz" ("The Islamist Turntable of Switzerland") about the masterminds behind political Islam. In it, she describes the close connections between the mosques in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. And she accuses the authorities of being naive about the threat of jihadism.

In some mosques, radical preachers from Saudi Arabia are invited to spread their ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. But the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are secular, she says. They do not identify with what is preached in mosques.

She is critical of gender segregation and islamic head coverings. According to her, the latter is "an instrument of power that makes the public space inaccessible to Muslim women". She considers the controversial prohibition on full veiling, which has been in force in Austria since 1 October 2017, worth emulating. "The veil," Keller-Messahli says, "reduces the girl or woman to just her gender." She adds: "This is about power and a craving for control that has nothing to do with the Quran, because in the Quran the word hair does not even appear."


  • Saïda Keller-Messahli is a Tunisian-Swiss author and long-time advocate of a progressive Islam.
  • In 2016, she was awarded the Human Rights Prize of the Swiss Section of the International Society for Human Rights. Her current book, entitled "Islamistische Drehscheibe Schweiz", takes a look behind the scenes of the mosque associations and describes how radical preachers operate within a network in Europe.
  • She is president of the Forum for Progressive Islam. The forum questions traditional interpretations of the Quran, and fosters debate in the Muslim community.

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