“I don’t wish to force Muslim children to eat pork,” said Glarner, a member of the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), “but we cannot have our children denied Cervelat!”
His rallying cry for Switzerland’s national sausage came in response to an incendiary Facebook post earlier this week, in which the MP claimed that a “disappointed mother” had called him to complain that an unidentified youth group in the canton of Aargau had “banned Cervelat for Swiss children because of Muslims”.
“Swiss people, wake up!”, Glarner urged, setting his Facebook status to “feeling enraged”.
The post quickly went viral and a media frenzy ensued. Amid speculation that Glarner had made the whole thing up, the school in question, in the small town of Strengelbach, decided to come forward to clarify that teachers had never banned Cervelat or any other sausage from its end-of-year party, merely requested that parents not bring pork “so that everyone can eat” the whole spread.
Nor was it accurate that, as Glarner asserted, anyone craving a Cervelat would have to bring their own separate grill – since the school lunch in question is a picnic, not a barbecue.
“Neither the school nor the Strengelbach town council has any intention to take pork off the menu,” the management said in a statement, adding that children were welcome to bring Cervelat or any other pork product.
The statement added, however, that the teacher who wrote the letter in which the request was – very briefly – made should have explained their intentions more clearly
Swiss commentators agreed. ‘Integration expert’ Thomas Kessler told 20 Minuten that it was “important to remain reasonable” and that the school should simply have set up two separate tables, one with pork and the other without. Meanwhile Jonathan Kreutner, head of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, said that it was up to those with special dietary requirements to look after their own needs, without requiring anyone to change their diet for others.
“It’s not right that we Muslims are now being blamed,” one Swiss Muslim woman identified as Sumeja M. told tabloid Blick. She called the school’s actions well-intentioned but counterproductive, since they “give Swiss people the impression that we don’t want to fit in”.
“The Cervelat debate just stirs up hate against us,” she said.
Speaking on Thursday, Glarner offered to buy 2,000 Cervelat sausages and invited schools, youth groups and summer camps across Switzerland to compete for the meaty haul.
“Here’s to Cervelat!”, said the politician, an SVP hardliner who has also campaigned against the Muslim burqa, reforms to Switzerland’s citizenship laws and quotas requiring Swiss communities to take in refugees, and regularly complains about the so-called “Islamization” of Switzerland.
He came to international attention in 2016 as the mayor of Oberwil-Lieli, a village in Aargau which chose to pay a fine rather than accept its share of asylum seekers.