Swiss school board orders Muslim schoolboy to shake hands with female teachers

A school board in a Swiss canton has dismissed the appeal of a 15-year-old Muslim boy who had been ordered to shake hands with his female teacher.

The case sparked nationwide outrage back in May after the student said that shaking the hand of woman was against Islamic teachings.

The school council in Therwil, Basel-Country rejected the appeal filed by his parents aimed at overturning the decision ordering the boy to shake hands with female teachers.

The school issued a statement on Monday saying it is a teacher’s right to demand a handshake.

The council’s decision was championed by the head of the city’s education department, Monica Gschwind.

The official said the ritual of handshakes is not only a sign of decency but is also “deeply rooted in our society and culture,” adding that she was “pleased” with the school’s ruling.

“For me it is clear: the handshake is enforced – no ifs and buts,” Gschwind said.

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She went on to say that everyone regardless of their religion should respect Swiss traditions and values.

The boy’s parents now have an option to lodge a further appeal with the city’s education authorities but Gschwind stressed she would lobby the local authorities to comply with the school’s ruling.

Salhani and his older brother made headlines back in May after they said they could not shake hands with a female teacher because Islam does not allow physical contact with a member of the opposite gender unless they are family members like a mother, sister, wife, paternal or maternal aunts, or grandmothers.

The high school initially tried to reach a compromise and passed a ruling stating that the students will no longer have to shake hands with female teachers.

However, the decision triggered outrage across Switzerland, and the school then scrapped the ruling.

Local authorities later ruled that refusal to follow the Swiss tradition of handshake would trigger fines up to 5,000 francs or other disciplinary measures.

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