Swiss Suspended Immigration Process of a Syrian Family Over Refusal to Shake Hands
Apr 20, 2016 04:46 AM EDT
Switzerland has suspended the process of getting citizenship for a Syrian family after the family's two teenage boys said they refuse to shake hands with their female teachers. The boys, aged 14 and 15, explained that physical contact with women who were not family members was against their faith.
BBC reported that the local canton has requested an expert legal opinion to solve the case. According to a spokesman for the canton, the naturalization proceedings for the Syrian family had been put on hold while waiting for a definite decision. The spokesman also noted that such delay in citizenship procedures are common, as authorities often require additional information about the families concerned. It's known that the boys' father was granted asylum in 2001 when he came from Syria where he was an imam.
As the next step, the office for migration in canton Basel Country would interview the family members individually. The spokesman for the office said that the family's immigration status would only be decided based on their answers to the open-ended questions during the interview process.
The case has triggered a prolonged debate among officials, politicians, as well as citizens. Some argued that under religious freedoms, the boys should not be interrupted in doing things according to their faith. Others insisted that shaking hands is a part of the national culture. In the country, shaking hands with the teacher before and after class is a common practice in schools.
Officials in Therwil, where the boys' school is located, saw the matter in a gender perspective as well and told the boys not to shake male teachers' hands to avoid gender discrimination. However, the move has led to a public criticism, as noted by Expatica.
The incident is a part of the integration of Islam into the Swiss society. Muslims are reported to make up around 5 percent of the overall population. The country is a home for about 350,000 Muslim in the total population of about eight million.
Previously, the Swiss officials have made policies and decisions that might not be ideal for the Muslims population in the country. According to The Washington Post, Swiss voters banned the construction of minarets in 2009. Last year, the canton of Ticino passed a law that stated wearing a burqa in public is punishable by a $10,000 fine.
The Swiss officials are now in the process of gathering additional information on a Syrian family which immigration status has been on hold after the family's two boys stated how they have been refusing to shake hands with their female teachers. The office migration will interview family members individually and ask for a legal expert opinion to make a decision.