The handshake stir

A ruling to exempt male Muslim pupils from shaking female teachers’ hands causes outcry

Geneva: Male Muslim students at a school in northern Switzerland will no longer have to shake hands with their female teachers, following a ruling that has caused an uproar in the country.

The decision was taken after two students filed complaints
The decision was taken after two students filed complaints. Representative Pic/ThinkStock

A school reached the decision after two male students complained that the Swiss custom of shaking hands with female teachers is against their religious beliefs. The decision triggered an outcry across Switzerland with Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga insisting yesterday that “shaking hands is part of our culture.”

Christoph Eymann, who heads the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, agreed, insisting, “We cannot tolerate that women in public service are treated differently from men.”

Muslim groups decried the polemic around the issue. “One would think that the existence of Swiss values was at stake, when this case in fact involves just two school students who said they wish to greet their teacher in a different way,” the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland said.

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