Swiss Canton rules no excuse for refusing to shake for Muslim pupils

GENEVA: Swiss regional authorities ruled on Wednesday that religious belief is no excuse for refusing to shake a teacher’s hand. This ruling came after the uproar caused by the school’s controversial decision to grant exemptions for Muslim pupils to shake hands with the opposite sex.

This decision was made independently by the school in the northwest Therwil municipality without involvement of the canton’s authorities or local officials when two syrian brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher complaining that doing so was counter to their religious belief.

This triggered an outcry across Switzerland, where the tradition of students shaking their teachers’ hands as a sign of respect is deeply entrenched.

The regional education authorities also ruled that the parents or guardians of pupils who refuse to shake a teacher’s hand in the northern Swiss canton of Basel-Country could now face fines of up to 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,000, 4,500 euros).

The statement said.“A teacher has the right to demand a handshake.”

The authorities said explaining Wednesday’s ruling that. “the public interest concerning gender equality as well as integration of foreigners far outweighs that concerning the freedom of belief of students.”

Nearly 350,000 Muslims include in Switzerland’s population of eight million. Recently disputes have centered on Muslim parents who demanded that their daughters be exempt from swimming lessons, a case that led to the parents being fined.