The Guardian is reporting that religious belief is no excuse for refusing to shake a teacher’s hand, authorities in a northern Swiss region have ruled, reversing a school’s decision to grant exemptions for Muslim pupils unwilling to touch the opposite sex.
Parents of pupils who refuse to shake a teacher’s hand at schools in the northern canton of Basel-Country could now face fines of up to 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,400), regional education authorities said on Wednesday.
“A teacher has the right to demand a handshake,” they said in a statement.
The decision comes after a national uproar arose over revelations last month that a middle school allowed two Syrian brothers, aged 14 and 15, to be exempt from having to shake their teachers’ hands after they complained that doing so was counter to their religious beliefs if the teacher was a woman.
They argued that Islam does not permit physical contact with a person of the opposite sex, with the exception of certain immediate family members. To avoid effectively permitting discrimination against female teachers, the school decided to exempt the boys from shaking hands with any of their teachers, regardless of sex.
That decision – made independently by the school in Therwil – triggered an outcry across Switzerland, where the tradition of students shaking their teachers’ hands as a sign of respect is deeply entrenched.
The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) said Basel-Country had exceeded its authority with the ruling overturning the school’s decision and vowed a court battle if the measures were enforced.
Do you think the school or the authorities were in the right? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on twitter.
Are you a trainee teacher, NQT, teacher, headteacher, parent or just someone who cares about education and has something to get off your chest in a Schools Improvement Guest Post? Follow this link for more details at the bottom of the page.Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link.
We now have a Facebook page - please click to like!