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Swiss Muslim Students Face $5k Fines If They Refuse To Shake Women’s Hands

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Two Muslim brothers who were granted exemptions from shaking their female teachers’ hands will face $5,000 fines if they continue their boycott, a Swiss court ruled Wednesday.

The brothers, aged 14 and 16, garnered national attention in April when the local school board allowed them to skip the Swiss tradition of shaking hands with their teachers before and after class. The brothers said it was against their religion as Muslims to have physical contact with women who are not their relatives. (RELATED: Swiss Muslim Students Exempt From Shaking Hands With Female Teachers)

“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 after announcing the exemption.

A regional court ruled Wednesday that teachers “had the right” to demand handshakes from their students. Anyone who refuses to take part in the tradition could face fines of up to $5,000. Since the boys are considered minors, future penalties would fall on their parents.

The boys responded to the ruling in local media, saying “nobody could make them” shake hands, and that they can’t “just delete their culture as it was a hard drive.”

The Swiss Federation of Islamic Organizations said there is no reference in the Quran justifying a refusal to shake a woman’s hand.

The family of the two boys had their citizenship applications suspended shortly after the exemption was announced in April. The government said it was “looking into the circumstances” behind how the father, who works as an imam, received asylum in 2001.

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