Muslim Man Fined for Preventing Daughters From Swimming With Boys


A Muslim man in Switzerland was fined for forbidding his daughters from taking swimming lessons at school. In the country’s latest case bearing the challenges of integration, the unnamed 40-year-old was ordered to pay $4,000. Apart from disallowing his daughters to take swimming lessons, the man had also barred them from attending camps and other events as school, saying such practices contradict his sincerely held religious beliefs.

Altstaetten district court in St Gallen, a canton in northeastern Switzerland, found the man guilty of violating a law on obligatory schooling and disobeying previous orders from Swiss authorities. The court announced its verdict earlier this year after the man appealed a past ruling faulting him in December 2015.

The prosecutor had demanded the man be sentenced to four months in prison in addition to the fine, saying the Bosnian national who has been residing in Switzerland since 1990, had opposed integration on more than one occasion thereby showing no respect for Swiss legislation. Last year, a lower court sentenced the man for disallowing his daughters from going to school unless authorities allowed them to wear the hijab but the country’s highest court overturned that verdict, saying the elder daughter should be allowed to wear a hijab on grounds of religious freedom.

This recent ruling came only days after it appeared that two other Muslim girls had been refused Swiss citizenship for being unwilling to attend mandatory swimming lessons at school.

Those two girls, aged 12 and 14, who reside in the northern city of Basel, had applied for naturalization several months earlier but their request was denied in June, after they refused to swim alongside boys at school. The duo, whose names have not been disclosed, said their religious beliefs prevent them from participating in mandatory swimming lessons alongside boys even if that means they are defying school curriculum.

“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” Stefan Wehrle, president of the naturalization committee, told the media.

This is not the first time the Muslim community in Switzerland has objected to mixed-gender swimming lessons. In 2012, a devout family was fine $1,500 for prohibiting the daughters from participating in swimming lessons. That case eventually went up to the Supreme Court, which ruled, no exemptions with regards to swimming should be made on grounds of religion.

As opposed to the United States and many other countries, Switzerland considers integration in society far more important for naturalization than a candidate’s knowledge of the country’s natural history or political system. Candidates seeking citizenship are required to prove how adapted they are to their communities and whether they respect local customs and traditions. Since local towns or village councils are in charge of making the initial decision on naturalization applications—if they believe a candidate does not qualify as an upstanding member of the community—the application will likely be rejected and not forwarded to canton and federal authorities for further processing.

The above cases go on to show how those who refuse to abide by Swiss customs are likely to be denied citizenship even if they have resided in the country for several years, are fluent in any one of the national languages, French, German or Italian; and happen to be gainfully employed.

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