In the industrial area of Grüze in Winterthur, between car garages, industrial businesses and an Evangelical Free church is the mosque of the Islamic-Albanian Association. The former factory building has only been converted on the inside, and so it still appears as a factory. A small minaret, little more than 3 m high and 50 cm in diameter, is the only indication of the building’s current function. The women’s entrance is on the quiet Kronaustrasse, and the men’s in the courtyard on the opposite side of the building.
The Islamic-Abanian Association has been around since 1992. While in the beginning the association members met in inconvenient rooms around Winterthur, the need soon became clear for a separate building, and in 1999 the association began the search for a suitable location. In 2002 an industrial hall was found, the foundation stone was laid the same year, and conversion work could begin the following year. In 2004, with the help of volunteer donations and many hours of work by the association members, the conversion to a mosque was finally finished and ready to use.
Many of the architectural decisions during the construction work were made by majority decision of the association members. About one year later, the society received a permit for a small minaret, which was dedicated on 29th may 2005. The minaret can be seen particularly well from the nearby ice rink, and although the budget for a more distinct exterior design is still lacking, initial ideas are already underway.
Today the Islamic-Abanian Association consists of about 280 members. It is led by a board and a permanent Imam. The board members each have a different function; Irfan Ljatifi is responsible for external matters such as public relations.
Sahit Cerimi, member of the association, is very happy with the immediate neighbourhood: «Since we have been here, many restaurants, shops and housing have been established in the vicinity.» They are keen to maintain a good relationship with the adjacent garage, where some of the association members are employed. They also organise joint events with members of the Evangelical Free church, the «Chile Grüze» in the next street. The only thing that they are not happy with is the exterior of the building: «Only a few people know about the mosque and realise that it is in this building», continues Cerimi. The minaret, at least, as a symbol of the mosque, improved its visibility. Neither the planning application nor the construction of the minaret gave rise to any objections, although at the same time applications for minarets in Wangen SO and Langenthal BE were causing much debate. The only mention of its inauguration was in the «Winterthurer Stadtanzeiger» on 14th June 2005.
«Islam» means «surrender (to God)». A Muslim is one who surrenders to God. Islam also strongly emphasises the unity, uniqueness and omnipotence of God. It stands in the Judeo-Christian tradition of revelation, with Abraham as the archetype of the faithful, and thus counts as one of the «monotheistic-Abrahamic religions». Islam emerged in the 7th Century C.E. in the Arabian Peninsula. The Meccan Mohammed (ca. 570-632 C.E.) was witness to revelations from about 610 until his death, which were memorised by his followers and in the decades after his death were collected as the Qur’an (literally «recitation»). According to the Qur’an, Mohammed is the last in a series of God’s messengers starting with Adam, and the bringer of the final revelation, he is «the seal of the prophets». In his home city of Mecca, Mohammed initially experienced such strong hostility that he moved with his followers to Medina, where he was welcomed as a mediator between warring tribes, and was subsequently able to establish a religious community.
After Mohammed’s death the carefully collected records (hadiths) concerning his actions and sayings were the second point of reference for his young community of followers after the Qur’an. These describe the exemplary behaviour of the Prophet, the Sunna. Following this, the community called themselves the Sunni, who now make up about 90% of Muslims. The rest are mostly Shiites, who broke from the community after they stood behind Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law Ali as leader in the decades after Mohammed’s death, and later further divided amongst themselves. The five basic duties of adult Muslim men and women are the Shahadah, the profession of faith («There is no God but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God»), praying five times a day at specific times towards Mecca (Salat), fulfilling the alms tax (Zakat), fasting during the month of Ramadan between sunrise and sunset, and pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).
Switzerland is home to about 400,000 Muslims, 12,000 of them Shiites. About 58% of Muslims in Switzerland come from former Yugoslavia, 21% from Turkey, and 12% have Swiss citizenship. Noteworthy are also the 25-35,000 Alevis, mostly Turkish supporters of a special form of the Shiite tradition, but who are independently organised, and often do not consider themselves Muslim.
Although the mosque is run by an Albanian association, it is like every Sunni mosque open to all backgrounds, and believers from other countries such as Turkey and Pakistan can regularly be found alongside the Albanian members. The Islamic-Albanian Association itself has grown rapidly in recent years and the number of members has grown from 80 in the beginning to nearly 300 people, including many young people, thus nearly quadrupling in size.
The association is particularly proud of the inside of the cupola, which is richly decorated with Arabic calligraphy, with a large chandelier hanging from it. There is a large, arched gallery in the prayer hall for women.
Islamisch-Albanischer Verein Winterthur
|Type of Building:
|Mosque with minaret
|Building height (incl. minaret):
|Approximately CHF 690,000
|Islamic-Albanian Association Winterthur
|Start of conversion:
|January 2003 (Land purchase 27th July 2002)
|15th may 2004 (Minaret 29th May 2005)
|Conception through to inauguration:
|Approximately 3 years
Simone Bretscher: (K)eins aufs Dach? Über realisierte und geplante Minarette in der Schweiz
Download PDF (133 pages, 1300 KB) in German only
Text : Marc Sommerhalder and Janosch Hain
Photos : Marc Sommerhalder and Albanian Mosque (Photo 3)
«Cupola – Temple – Minaret» is a Project by the Centre for Research on Religions, Lucerne
Last updated: 14th August 2020
© 2009-2020 Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Luzern