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Swiss Suspend Muslim Citizenship App After Boys Refuse To Shake Women’s Hands

REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Switzerland has suspended the citizenship applications for the family of two Muslim teenagers, after they refused to shake hands with their female teachers.

The boys’ refusal to shake hands with their female teachers garnered national attention in April, when the local school board decided to exempt them from the mandatory Swiss tradition. Students line up to shake hands with their teachers as a showing of mutual respect, but the boys said physical contact with women they are not related to violates their religious beliefs as Muslims. (RELATED: Swiss Muslim Students Exempt From Shaking Hands With Female Teachers)

The decision immediately caused an outcry around the country. The Swiss Federation of Islamic Organizations said there is no reference in the Quran justifying a refusal to shake a woman’s hand. Politicians demanded the exemption be reversed, but is is still in effect, while the school board is looking over the legalities.

“It is difficult when someone refuses to adopt our way of life,” Christine Akeret, who is in charge of the local school board, told the media.

A spokesman for the local canton — the equivalent of a state —  Tuesday said the boys’ families have now had their citizenship applications suspended. The federal government is allegedly looking into the circumstances behind how the father, who works as an imam, received asylum in 2001.

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