Male Muslim students refuse handshakes with women teachers

By Cheryl Chumley

Male Muslims at one Swiss school don't have to shake hands with their female teachers any longer.
Male Muslims at one Swiss school don’t have to shake hands with their female teachers any longer.

Male Muslims at one Swiss high school won the right from administrators to turn down handshakes from their female teachers – an upset of long-running traditions at the northern Therwil municipality.

The Local reported that two teen Muslim males complained the policy of shaking hands with even women teachers violated their religious beliefs. And upon complaint, and administrative consideration, they won the right to refuse.

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But local leaders aren’t exactly pleased with the decision, the New York Post reported.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga took to local television to decry the ruling, saying “shaking hands is part of our culture” and these teen Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to overturn that, the newspaper reported. And others found the determination in favor of the teens discriminatory.

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“We cannot tolerate that women in the public service are treated differently from me,” said Christopher Eymann, who heads up the Swiss Conferences of Cantonal Ministers of Education, the New York Post reported.

Muslim rights groups, however, said students were right to complain.

“One would think that the continued existence of Switzerland’s core values was at stake, when this particular case in fact involves just two high school students who have said they wish to greet their teacher in a different way than with a handshake,” Switzerland’s Islamic Central Council said in a statement.

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