by Fabien Merz
Since 2013, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has warned of a heightened threat emanating from jihadi terrorism in Switzerland. According to FIS’s assessment, the threat has continuously risen since then and reached a new high in 2016. This is a new situation for a country that has, since the two attacks conducted by Palestinian groups targeting an El Al airplane in Kloten in 1969 and the bombing of a Swissair machine in 1970, remained largely unscathed by terrorism. This has remained true even in the decade after 9/11 when a wave of jihadi terrorism inspired and often directed by al-Qaeda struck urban centers in Europe and elsewhere on multiple occasions.1
A few reasons are usually named why Switzerland has been less affected by jihadist terrorism than other European countries. Most notably, its foreign policy informed by neutrality that made Switzerland less likely to become a deliberate target of jihadi groups as well as the country’s low levels of domestic radicalization. Indeed, a study conducted by ETH Zürich in 2013 found that Switzerland has been less touched by jihadist radicalization than other European countries. This, the study argued, was due to a number of factors. Firstly, the absence of “infecting clusters”, i.e. a jihadist mosque or a network of committed jihadists operating on its soil. Secondly, Switzerland’s ability to provide a good degree of social, economic and cultural integration to most Muslims living in Switzerland. Thirdly, the fact that 80-90% of the Swiss Muslim population trace their roots back to the Balkans and Turkey and that they often practice a tolerant and apolitical form of Islam thereby makes them more impermeable to radicalization. Finally, Swiss neutrality and the foreign policy resulting from it also plays a role by not giving any reasons of resentment to most Swiss Muslims.