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Switzerland Tells Young Muslims To Learn How To Swim Or Forget Citizenship

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Swiss authorities denied two Muslim girls naturalized citizenship because they refused to take part in swimming lessons.

The Swiss canton of Basel —  the equivalent of a state — listed absence from swimming classes in school as the reason for the refusal. The rejection took place in 2015, but was made public Monday by television network SRF.

Learning how to swim is a compulsory part of the Swiss curriculum, as long as health reasons don’t stand in the way. The girls, aged 12 and 14, cited religious reasons for their refusal to take part in the classes, which means they couldn’t meet the educational requirements.

“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” Stefan Wehrle, president of the naturalization committee in Basel, told SRF.

Proof of successful integration is required for naturalization in Switzerland. Swiss courts have previously shut down attempts from parents to except their children from swim classes, saying “integration comes before religion.”

Two Muslim boys made headlines during the spring for refusing to shake their female teachers’ hands. The local school board first exempted them from the handshake tradition, but a state court later overturned the decision. (RELATED: Swiss Muslim Students Exempt From Shaking Hands With Female Teachers)

The boys’ family had their citizenship applications suspended shortly after the handshake incident went viral.

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