Two Muslim girls have been refused a Swiss passport because the state has judged their naturalisation into society to have failed.
The refusal of a passport for the two sisters aged 12 and 14 is based upon their refusal to engage fully with the Swiss education system, in which educational class trips and swimming lessons are mandatory.
The girls, who speak German to an appropriate standard but allowed their faith to stand between themselves and becoming properly integrated, live in the city of Basel, which refused to issue the passports last year. The episode has only just come to light in Swiss press.
President of the local Naturalisation Commission Stefan Wehrle spoke to Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen this week and said that in making judgements on whether to grant passports to foreign nationals the board speaks to schools, who have the most complete picture of any government body over how well children are fitting in. Remarking that swimming lessons and school trips are compulsory in Switzerland, Mr. Wehrle said: “When this is not fulfilled, it violates the law and [applicants] are therefore not naturalised”.
The government official said his decision had set a precedent and that his legal case was “waterproof”, remarking “we are on the safe side”. He said: “The non-participation in education is an indication that someone is poorly integrated”.
Despite his confidence that the decision of the board was entirely in keeping with Swiss law, a local immigration lawyer lashed out. Stefanie Kurt from the University of Neuchâtel said Basel had “punished the wrong people”, as “it is the parents who are responsible for the religious education of children”.
The fact that the girls are reported to have also refused to shake hands with their teachers, a daily tradition in Swiss schools, suggests similarities with another recent case, also in Basel. Breitbart London reported in May about two Muslim brothers who refused to shake hands with their teachers for religious reasons, a state of affairs that initially left the headmaster of the school giving the pair a special exemption from the rules.
But the school board intervened, stating pupils were expected to shake hands with their teacher as a mark of respect, stating that integration of foreigners was higher priority than religious freedom.