Switzerland: COURT DECISION: Muslim Teens not exempt from Swimming lessons

May 10, 2013 – 21:25

Integration of foreigners is more important than their religious beliefs, Switzerland’s highest court ruled on Friday. The court denied a 14-year-old girl from a strict Muslim family in Aargau the right to dispensation from school swim class.

Wearing a burkini is an option for Muslim girls (Keystone)

The family argued that their strict religion prevented the girl from taking part in swimming lessons, where she would be seen by her male teacher and possibly other men. The girl already knew how to swim, having attended a private class strictly for Muslim girls, they added.

However, the court ruled that the girl must attend the swimming lessons offered at the high school: lessons were offered separately for girls and boys; wearing of a burkini – a full-body swmisuit – was allowed; and the girl would not have bodily contact with her male swimming teacher, since she already knew how to swim.

The court also stated that attendance at a Muslim-only swim course did not further integration, one of the goals of school swimming.

Allowing the dispensation would have contributed to “parallel societies”, the court found. Instead, the girl and her parents could reasonably be expected to take steps toward acceptance of local social and societal norms.

Muslims’ right to practice their religion was the subject of a huge controversy in 2009 in connection with a popular vote to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland. In contrast, a government report conducted in the wake of the ban found that “most Muslims in Switzerland are well-integrated and don’t generally experience problems related to their religious faith in everyday life”.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

4 replies

  1. Integration is cited by the court, but integration can be achieved in other ways. The fear of so many of Europe’s right, of “parallel societies”, is indicative of their xenophobia and prejudice. If some don’t accept some “local social and societal norms” due to sincerely held beliefs of modesty, then that won’t become an impediment to good in society overall, or integration for that matter. Sincerely held beliefs being denied will only further feelings of alienation as well as resentment. Pluralism and the acceptance of the “other” will only strengthen societies. Anti-Muslim/immigrant/”other” Europe needs to wake up and open its eyes to what is really prejudice in most cases, if not outright racism. It is the height of arrogance as well, to not just believe what you’re doing is right, but to force that on others who only want to practice modesty.

    • Right. I think first of all we should define ‘integration’. I think different people understand different things about it. Integration does not and should not mean that we are all uniform. The difference in culture (and religion) is what makes the world interesting.

  2. I think Switzerland is not afraid of multiculturalism but is afraid of segregation which is a boundary against the dominant culture. Segregation do not strengthen Swiss society. If the school has created conditions for all students to attend swimming classes (separate classes for girls and for boys, burkinis for muslim girls ) than family’s refusal is just a caprice.

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