Swiss ruling: Muslim pupils must shake teachers’ hands

Swiss ruling: Muslim pupils must shake teachers’ hands

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 SFr (£3,500).

According to the Independent, 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 earlier this year, 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 while local authorities discussed the issue.

The decision to exempt the students was condemned by Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, above, who said shaking hands was part of Swiss culture and daily life and that such dispensation for children was not her idea of integration.

In a ruling issued last week, Canton officials said all schools had been informed of the new rules enabling parents to be fined up to and children disciplined in a “necessary and proportionate” manner if they continue to refuse.

A statement by the local Department of Education, Culture and Sport said:

A teacher has the right to demand a handshake. 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.

Incidentally, the comments thread beneath the Independent report was hijacked by our old foe, Iftikhar Ahmad, of the London school of Islamics who banged on at interminable length about wanting – yes, Freethinker regulars will have guessed it – Muslim schools for Muslim children.

Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt … Swiss must learn to respect and tolerate those who are different … blah, blah, blah …

One commenter responded:

Lol.  Are you secretly just some bored English guy looking to stir the pot? Come on, admit it.  Steve?  Bob? Because I find it hard to believe someone can talk about respect while at the same time endorsing the disrespect of an entire country. You have to be a troll.  Nobody’s that much a (insert preferred expletive here).

Ahmad has been barred from trolling this site as well as the Freethinker‘s Facebook page.

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13 responses to “Swiss ruling: Muslim pupils must shake teachers’ hands”

  1. SallyinMI says:

    We lived in Switzerland for six months, and I don’t recall my kids, who were in high school at the time, ever having to shake anyone’s hand. (And they both got college degrees and have wonderful jobs.)
    We could barely get anyone to say an English word, even though they are all taught English. We learned German pretty fast, or at least enough to get by. This ruling seems pretty petty to me.

  2. Richard jowett says:

    It seems more abut refusing to shake the hand of a woman because she is a woman, who are seen as worthless in muslim countries. So I think this ruling is correct.

  3. Daz says:


    If it’s the usual practice in a school (as it appears to be in the school at the centre of all this) for pupils to shake the teacher’s hand, then allowing male pupils to refuse to shake the hands of a teacher merely because that teacher is a woman, is wrong. It teaches the children that it’s okay to discriminate based on gender. And “because God told me to” should not be a get-out.

  4. Stephen Mynett says:

    Saw this a few days ago and was very pleased. There are aspects of Swiss and German society that are quite formal compared to ours but that does not make them wrong or bad and when I was in Germany quite happy to go along with it.
    I certainly do not want to see any special exemptions given on the grounds of religion. Obviously the cultural relativists, we had one posting on the previous thread about this, will join Ifty in frothing at the mouth about this but cultural relativism is about as valid as any religious belief.

  5. jay says:

    ” important for students’ employability later in their professional lives.”


    While I oppose significant compromises with religion, sometimes these requiements seem to be more ‘twisting the knife’ rather than any practical purpose.

  6. Lurker111 says:

    I think this is nuts on both sides. Forcing physical contact between persons, by law, is wrong, period, end of argument.

    The fact that the physical contact refusal was based on myth and misogyny is, in this case, irrelevant.

    Islam is a disaster and currently the world’s most pernicious philosophy, but that does not obviate the first point that I’m making in my post here.

  7. Newspaniard says:

    Guess what? No EU interference in Switzerland. If this measure was taken in the UK, for example, there would be a whole raft of ambulance chasing lawyers in court making huge amounts of dosh, quoting some kind of “human rights” legislation and demanding that the school authorities all be sacked, or gaoled, or castrated. Isn’t the EU wonderful (NOT!)

  8. Terry says:

    Muslims do not want to or intend to integrate …they want to transplant islam and sharia into every country the infect. And most countries like the uk just let them do it … by stealth … and with ease. Well I say the Swiss are doing it right. Make your country difficult and unattractive for muslims and you will not get overrun by rabid extremist intolerant jihadist fundamentalists.

  9. Terry says:

    SallyinMI … Bully for you.

  10. 1859 says:

    It’s all about the level of integration. Sure, respect their right to follow a religion, but if that religion prevents social integration then it is the religion that must change not the host society. I wholeheartedly agree with the Swiss decision. Strict lines have to be drawn otherwise Swiss society will be transformed by more and more vociferous demands not to integrate.I sometimes feel that those who want to come and live in a west European society should, when they arrive at the border, be given a list, a Code of Compliance that states point by point what newcomers will be expected to do if they wish to stay and integrate and contribute to their new country.

  11. L.Long says:

    ALL DOGMA is EVIL!!!! All customs & traditions that can’t be question, changed, or ignored are just as evil!!!!

  12. 1859 says:

    @L.Long: ‘Philosophy asks questions that may never be answered. Religion gives answers that may never be questioned.’

  13. gedediah says:

    It’s a dumb rule that has no place in a democratic society. Kids should be allowed to decline and they shouldn’t have to say why. The fact that it exposed the inherent sexism in Islam in this case is a separate issue.