Muslim schoolboys in Switzerland have been told they must shake their female teachers’ hands or see their parents pay a fine of up to 5,000 francs (£3,500).The Canton of Basel-Landschaft said it would enforce the rule in all cases following an incident that caused uproar at a school in Therwil, when two students refused to shake their teacher’s hand because they said physical contact with a woman outside their family went against their religion.
The pupils were given a temporary waiver from shaking any teacher’s hand, which is a common greeting and sign of respect in Switzerland, while local authorities discussed the issue.In a decision released on Wednesday, Canton officials said all schools had been informed of the new rules enabling parents to be fined up to 5,000 francs (£3,500) and children disciplined in a “necessary and proportionate” manner if they continue to refuse. “A teacher has the right to demand a handshake,” a statement by the local department of education, culture and sport said.
“The public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs students’ freedom of conscience (freedom of religion).”
Refusing to shake a person’s hand on religious grounds amounted to a “religious act” separate from permitted expressions like wearing a headscarf or declining swimming lessons, the decision said, adding: “The social gesture of handshake is important for students’ employability later in their professional lives.”