Muslim students in the Swiss canton of Basel must shake the hands of teachers after a decision by the local school board.
The case of two young Muslim students who refused to shake hands with their female teacher, because of religious reasons, was highly criticised by an outraged Swiss public. The initial decision of the school to allow the young Muslim boys to refuse to shake the hand of their teacher culminated in the head of school having his phone number published online.
Now the school board has intervened, saying that the students will no longer be allowed to refuse the handshake. The board claims that the equality of men and women and the integration of foreigners is a higher priority than the religious freedom of the pair, Frankfurter Rundschau reports.
Deborah Murith, spokeswoman for the school board, said that the pressure on them was increased due to the media and the public outcry over the issue. She said that in future any school that has to deal with a similar problem regarding integration will not act on their own but will be made to consult with immigration authorities and other outside agencies. “We have experts who can see things much more comprehensively” she said.
Lawyers for the school board had mulled the decision over carefully looking at other religious exceptions, such as Muslims refusing to go to swimming lessons or the wearing of headscarves. The lawyers decided that while headscarves and swimming do not, in their opinion, affect integration, refusing the handshake does.
Ms. Murith summed up the thoughts of the lawyers saying “the social gesture of the handshake is important for the employability of the students in their later lives.”
The two boys involved in the row are brothers and come from a highly religious Islamic family. The family is so strict that the brothers, aged 14 and 16, are not allowed to shake the hands of male teachers as well as female ones. If the boys decide to continue to refuse to shake hands with their teachers, the board stated that they could face consequences, as could their parents: the boys could face potential expulsion from the school and the parents could face a fine of up to €4,500.
The handshake affair is not the first time the Swiss have had issues with Muslim integration. A shocking report revealed that Islamic fundamentalism in Switzerland may be far worse than previously suspected.
In May representatives from the city of Winterthur announced the creation of an anti-radicalisation centre because the problem of Islamic radicalisation had become so great. An Islamic State sleeper cell had previously been uncovered in the city which is considered one of the driving factors toward the creation of the centre.
In Geneva 30 men, mostly Muslim, were fired from working at the airport in the city due terrorism fears. The men were all French passport holders, worked as baggage handlers and had security clearance.