Muslim students in Switzerland face $5,000 fine for refusing to shake hands with female teachers
GENEVA: Religious belief is no excuse for refusing to shake a teacher’s hand, Swiss regional authorities ruled Wednesday, reversing one school’s controversial decision to grant exemptions for Muslim students wary of touching the opposite sex.
Regional education authorities in Switzerland ruled Wednesday that the guardians of students who refuse handshakes with their teacher face a fine of up to 5,000 Swiss Francs (£3,400; $5,040).
“A teacher has the right to demand a handshake,” they said in a statement.
The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) threatened a court challenge if the fines were imposed on students, saying that the regional authority had overstepped the mark in changing the ruling by the school.
The Federation of Islamic Organizations of Switzerland (IOS) told AFP news agency that the tradition of handshaking in schools was acceptable but said that the legal ruling was too far.
“It could have been resolved more gently by involving the Federation of Muslims in Basel, which could have acted as a mediator,” a spokesman, Pascal Gemperli, said.
Switzerland’s population of eight million people includes an estimated 350,000 Muslims.
Muslim families have however secured victories in court against schools which sought to ban the full face veil.