Ghoneim is one of the famed preachers in Egypt and the Arab world.


By Tamer Abul Einein, IOL Correspondent

GENEVA, September 19, 2005 ( – Swiss Muslim leaders hit out at airport authorities for banning prominent scholar Sheikh Wagdy Ghoneim from entering the country to attend a key conference, while slamming the conspicuous absence of invited officials at the two-day event.

“This is not the first time, and probably not the last, that a Muslim scholar is denied access to the country,” Gamal Al-Khatib, the organizer of the 15th annual meeting of the League of Muslims in Switzerland (LMS), told

He said the reasons behind the decision will remain as usual vague and unknown.

“The decision is driven by a bunch of opportunists who are playing the terror card to scare authorities and to provoke the Muslim minority.”

Airport authorities said Egyptian Ghoneim, who holds a valid Swiss visa, is accused of raising funds for the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, has been arrested by Egyptian police and is a persona non-grata in the United States.

Federal police did not issue a statement on the incident.

Swiss law does not ban individuals from visiting the country if they were arrested in other countries.

Ghoneim, 53, agreed in December to leave the US voluntarily rather than fight a legal battle with immigration officials.

The Muslim leader, whose case has drawn widespread support from Muslims in Southern California, agreed to leave for Qatar, where he holds a work visa.

Conspicuous Absence

“Ironically, some officials are accusing Muslims of not doing their best to reach out to the government,” said Karmous. 

Separately, the LMS harshly criticized government officials for failing to show up in their annual meeting, themed the Mercy to Mankind, in Fribourg.

“This is unacceptable and inexcusable,” LMS head Mohammad Karmous told IOL.

“Ignoring the forum by Swiss officials, particularly those who tirelessly talk about the integration of the Muslim minority, raises many question marks.”

He said government officials were expected to attend to listen to minority leaders and address problems facing Muslims.

“Ironically, some officials are accusing Muslims of not doing their best to reach out to the government while they themselves paid no heed to our invitation,” Karmous added.

The Muslim activist, however, said Muslims are resolved to pursue dialogue with the government at all levels.

Switzerland is home to some 380,000 Muslims, representing a sizable 4.7 percent of the country’s some eight million people.

Islam is the second religion in the country after Christianity.

Swiss Muslims are planning to establish a federation of Islamic organizations as an umbrella group for all Islamic bodies in the central European country.