Elham Asaad Buaras
Swiss authorities rejected the naturalization application of two Muslim girls who refused to take school swimming lessons because boys were present. The 12 and 14 year-olds who live in Basel, had applied for Swiss citizenship several months ago, but their request was denied on June 28.
The girls said their religion prevents them from participating in compulsory swimming lessons with males in the pool at the same time. Their naturalization application was rejected because the sisters did not comply with the school curriculum, Basel authorities said.
President of the naturalization committee, Stefan Wehrle, said, “Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized.”
Under Swiss rules naturalization can be denied citizenship, even if the applicants are employed, have lived in the Switzerland for long durations and are fluent in one of the national languages – German, French or Italian.
Local councils make initial decisions on naturalization applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.
In April, members of an immigrant family in the Basel area were denied citizenship because they wore sweatpants around town and did not greet passersby – a sure sign that they were not sufficiently assimilated, the naturalization board claimed.
Another recent case sparked widespread outrage in Switzerland when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher, also citing religious restrictions. Shaking hands with a teacher is a common practice in Swiss schools.
After that incident was widely publicized, authorities suspended the naturalization request from the boys’ father, an imam at the Basel mosque.The swimming case involving the two girls is the first to deny naturalization applications for not complying with a school program, setting precedence for future cases, Wehrle said.
In 2012, a family was fined $1,500 for forbidding their daughters to participate in swimming classes. The matter eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that no dispensations from swimming lessons should be made on religious grounds.
[Photo: Mosque of the Olten Turkish cultural association at Wangen bei Olten. By Nadf Public Domain]