Swiss Court Orders Muslim Students To Shake Hands With Women Or Pay $5000

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Two Muslim students in Switzerland who refuse to shake hands with female teachers lost a court case Monday and will have to pay more than $5,000 if they continue to ignore the Swiss tradition.

The brothers garnered international attention in the spring when their school gave them an exception from shaking hands with their female teachers. The boys claimed physical contact with women you aren’t related to is a violation of their Muslim faith. (RELATED: Swiss Muslim Students Exempt From Shaking Hands With Female Teachers)

The handshake ritual is a longstanding tradition in Swiss schools and authorities later overturned the exception from the local school board.

“The public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of conscience (freedom of religion) of the students,” the education authority said at the time.

One of the brother dropped out of school in protest. The younger brother decided to stick around but continued to refuse handshakes with women.

The new court ruling states that handshakes are mandatory, and refusals may result in fines of 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,135).

“Shaking hands with teachers is deeply rooted in our society and culture,” said Monica Gschwind, the head of the local education department, according to Blick . “For me it is clear: the handshake is enforced – no ifs, no buts.”

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Jacob Bojesson