Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Switzerland: Muslim boys must shake female teachers' hands

26 May 2016, 19:31

Geneva - A school board in northern Switzerland said on Wednesday that two Muslim boys who have refused to shake hands with their female teachers for religious reasons can be required to do so, ruling that their parents could face fines of up to 5 000 Swiss francs (about $5 000) if they don't.

A public school in the northeastern Therwil municipality had sought the regional school board's advice after accepting the boys' belief that they should only willingly touch the women whom they will eventually marry. The school had temporarily exempted the teens from shaking hands with teachers.

The boys' refusal set off a debate in Switzerland, which has a tradition of handshake greetings. Like elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland has at times struggled to strike the right cultural balance amid a recent influx of Muslims and other newcomers.

"The public interest concerning the equality of men and women as well as the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the pupils' freedom of religion and belief," the school board said in a statement. "The social gesture of shaking hands is important if pupils are to be prepared for working life."

Integration or alienation?

Under the decision, teachers at the school can require their students to shake hands. Refusal to comply could land the parents with a warning, a call to a meeting with school leaders, other disciplinary measures, and in the extreme, fines of up to 5 000 francs as part of standard school policies, the board said.

Sanctions would need to have "an educational purpose and be proportionate," it said.

The Central Islamic Council of Switzerland accused the authorities of "grossly overstepping their competency," saying such measures won't help integration but rather contribute to a feeling of alienation among Muslims.

The council said it would take legal action against any effort to apply the sanctions, and ignore any fines.

School board spokesperson Deborah Murith said the handshake requirement isn't uniform policy at all regional schools, but that the Therwil school had enacted it years ago.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland has noted that politeness is a key aspect of Islamic tradition, and that refraining from handshakes is "inappropriate" in Switzerland.

- AP


Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM MP chased down by angry Kibra...

Kibra MP Ken Okoth had a hard time in his constituency after angry youth pelted him with stones. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Prepare for DP Ruto fight in 2022...

An MP has warned that the Kalenjin Community will not stand back and watch as DP Ruto is duped ahead of the 2022 polls. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be careful who you deal with, DP ...

Watch out for your political future, DP William Ruto has been warned. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Kikuyu 2022 vote will go to Peter...

The 2022 Kikuyu vote will go to Peter Kenneth, a Rift Valley Governor has warned DP William Ruto. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
CORD threatens to boycott 2017 po...

The CORD Coalition says that it will be forced to boycott the 2017 elections if there is no new voter register in place by the time. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Disgraced Jeptoo stripped of 2014...

Organizers of the Boston Marathon are stripping Kenyan runner Rita Jeptoo of her 2014 victory as part of the athlete's newly extended doping ban. Read more...