Outrage after Muslim students excused from shaking teacher’s hand

It happened on the other side of the world, but a Swiss school’s choice to excuse two Muslim students from

It happened on the other side of the world, but a Swiss school’s choice to excuse two Muslim students from shaking their teachers hand has sparked anger in many countries around the world.

When two 14- and 15-year-old brothers refused to shake their female teachers hand last November, their school in Therwil near Basel, decided to allow them to commit to a verbal greeting instead so they did not have to compromise on their religion.

The boys and the school were both happy with this arrangement and have been using the verbal greeting ever since.

However, last week a Swiss media outlet published the story, sparking outrage across the country and the throughout many parts of the world.

Australia experienced a similar situation last year when a Victorian school was criticised for allowing Muslim students to leave the room when the national anthem was being sung.

Switzerland is in the midst of an ongoing debate on how to handle the integration of immigrants, and this story has only added fuel to the fire.

Switzerland’s Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the schoolboys’ actions was not how she imagined integration taking place.

“We cannot accept this, even in the name of religious freedom,” she said. “The handshake is part of our culture.”

The Muslim community in Swizerland has taken a diplomatic approach to the situation with president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations Montassar Benmrad citing the Islamic principle of respecting others and avoiding unnecessary embarrassment.

“It’s important that the Muslim students concerned show respect towards the teachers that educate them year-round,” Mr Benmrad said on the organisation’s website.

While many people have come out to say the students should have to conform to the local customs and manners, others say they should be allowed to excuse themselves on the basis of religious freedom.

What are your thoughts?

Should everyone be forced to follow the local customs of the country they live in? Or, should we be able to do want we want (without breaking the law) on the basis of religious freedom?

  1. Pamela  

    Moslems do NOT integrate!

    Why would you want to shake hands with someone who wants to kill you and who wipes there bottom with their hand instead of paper?

    • Mary  

      Where did you get the idea that Muslins don’t use toilet paper? Ok, they eat with their right hands and not the left which they use in the toilet. I haven’t heard anybody say they use just their hands without paper, a cloth or what everybody had to use in the bus h- a handful of dried grass.

      Unless you know for certain, this is an unkind and scurrilous accusation.

      As for the handshaking, this was a peaceful solution that was causing no harm. What business is it of others? The same with the National Anthem. The children aren’t showing disrespect to us but may not be ready to show disrespect to their own faith. Give them time. Honey not vinegar. Assimilation is a slow, careful progress, Think of the Irish who came to Australia. They had to adapt too, so remember what fine citizens some of them turned out to be.
      In my lifetime I have known a Vietnamese family who escaped by boat to Malaysia then allowed to come here. Some of the older family members took on menial jobs because they missed an education due to the war, but some of the younger members now are highly trained professionals. As for the next generation there is a NASA scientist and a doctor. This is only one family . If the all positive enrichment just those Vietnamese Refugees have brought to Australia could be measured, some people would be astounded.
      It behoves us to make friends with strangers rather than treat them with distain because by doing that we might be just turning them into enemies.

      • brigitte gilbert  

        What a terrible untrue accusation to muslims! Pamela, have ever been to a Muslim Country? I bet you haven’t. Well I have and what you’re saying is vindictive and malicious. It does nothing for the so called integration. These people have their culture and we have ours, it’s in their make up. How can we expect them to be like us and try to become what we consider the only way to be? We are no better then anyone else bcos we call ourselves Christians, remember that.

    • Grace  

      Perhaps you comment would have more voracity if you could spell.

  2. Peter Millar  

    AND you expect them NOT to try this stunt here? They do NOT want to become part of our culture and will only accept us if we co0nvert to their religion which teaches them to lie, cheat & kill unbelievers. Why do you expect anything different. The School that in Australia that allowed them to leave should have all of their State & Federal funding removed.

    • Trish T  

      I agree, I thought that when they came to this country they wanted to become part of it. That means they need to adapt to customs etc as I have done when I have visited other countries. If I didn,t think I could adapt, I would not go to live in that country. I do not think that anyone has the right to expect us to change and consider it arrogant that we are expected to. I am so grateful that I am an Australian citizen, have lived here for 28 years

  3. Anne Wolski  

    For goodness sake, the school and students were happy with the arrangement. Just another example of the media stirring the pot and inciting hatred toward a minority. If the parties concerned are happy with the arrangement, then it has nothing to do with anyone else

  4. Julian de Meyrick  

    I have never been aware of a male student not shaking hands with a female dignitary but I have participated in hundreds of prize-giving, graduation and other public ceremonies. It is my experience that when a female Muslim student is identified and the presiding dignitary is a male, she is asked if she would like to shake hands. On the occasions when the student does not wish to shake hands, the dignitary is advised, usually by some sort of signal and avoids mutual embarrassment by acknowledging and congratulating the student without touching them. Just as there are some Muslims who wear scarves and some who don’t, there are some female Muslims who shake hands with a male and some who don’t. Rather than adopting a mindless stereotype approach, I prefer to consider each person as an individual and check with them.

    Refraining from shaking hands, provided it is done showing mutual respect, is entirely different from leaving the room when an anthem is played and should never be lumped in together.

    • Beverley  

      I agree that it is quite different from leaving the room for the National Anthem. That is something i wholeheartedly disapprove of.

      • Jaya  

        Leaving the room intentionally to avoid standing for the National Anthem is an afront to the society we live in. The School Principal’s value system is suspect and should be counseled

  5. Sue  

    It is my understanding that there is a religious rule within the Muslim beliefs that one is not allowed to physically touch a member of the opposite sex. If this is correct then we need to respect the young people’s rights and the arrangement that the teachers came to. It is not that long ago that Catholics were not allowed to attend religious services of other religious groups such as Church of England, Baptist etc. There were no major outcries about this, it was accepted even though friends were hurt because a Catholic friend could not attend their wedding or a funeral. Not that long ago this rule was changed and it was certainly as a result of women in the Catholic Church agitating against this senseless restriction.
    These teachers have shown respect and understanding for religious differences The young people, I am certain, feel respected and accepted which will create a feeling of good will.

    We are a multi racial country and each nationality has its own customs and beliefs, Is it so difficult for us to acknowledge these differences and respect the individual? We only have to look at our Christmas traditions, For so long it was celebrated in the Northern Europe way even though it was in the middle of our Summer. We cooked and slaved in incredibly hot kitchens to prepare a feast the same as would be served by our forebears in the British Isles or Europe. Today we even have begun to celebrate Christmas in July just to take advantage of the cooler time of year, and many a family celebrates the traditional day participating in barbeque lunches and a more relaxed lifestyle
    Timem they say, is a great healer but time also helps to create changes and close gaps between people. Respect and understanding created a better and a more inclusive world.

    • Joý boaz  

      Excuse me but it didnt worry them about touching the young women they have raped

    • So well said, Sue, Thank You! We have lived through so many waves of migration from Europe and Asia, and all have been (eventually) accepted. Let’s hope the trend continues, although I have never witnessed such an outpouring of fear and bigotry as that shown against Muslims. We need to remember Muslim cameleers were the backbone of the exploration of this country, and have been here for hundreds of years.

  6. If a Muslim refuses to stand for the national anthem or show due respect to our flag. Their welfare should be stopped immediately and they should be deported to the nearest Muslim country with their passport marked never to return .

    • Jaya  

      Any one refusing to respect the National Anthem or the flag has an aversion to that country. Such person(s) will not only integrate in a multi cultural society but their value system is suspect.

    • wyn Williams  

      Sorry ..do not give them a choice….they are in a Country they choose to live ..so they should be honoring that Countries way….STOP giving in to them. …our country our ways…they don’t like. ..MOVE BACK TO WHERE YOU REALLY BELONG….SO DAM SICKOF ALL THIS BOWING DOWN TO THEM

      • Maureen  

        Any country I have been in, I have stood for their national anthem as a mark of respect for that country. If they do not want to touch the opposite sex due to religious reasons, fair enough but if they have chosen to be in our country and get educated by our teachers they should definitely stand for our national anthem otherwise they are totally disrespecting us and our country. I think too many of them use the religious card to disrespect us

  7. colin  

    The school accept it as does the teacher as does the student. Prejudice and pathetic holier than thou in some comments. Christians are so self righteous its no wonder they are declining in numbers. As for wiping your butt with hand, A LOT OF COUNTRIES done have paper so use water which is far cleaner than any Western first world society.
    and as for Peter Miller well have a look at the Christian history/ crusades/ inquisition / invasion ( including Australia) , in fact read the whole sordid incestuos, murderous book they call the bible

    • Jene Brooks  

      Does not the Koran endorse incest, murder and mutilation?

    • Ivy Shelley  

      Colin, when you say that the bible is murderous, you are right in that it is in parts, but the difference in Christianity and Islam, is that those parts of Christianity are not carried forward to present day, and with Islam it is!
      The I.S is carrying out the orders of what Muhammad told Muslims to do during “End Times,” and some foreign correspondents familiar with the Muslims in Iraq Syria, etc, say that the I.S think those times are near.

  8. Mia Van Der Stam  

    They want us to accept them- and treat them as citizens etc; then why on earth do they differentiate themselves so much- and what about respect for OUR culture- the culture of a country they fled to for help and a better life. We have to respect their cultures when we visit their countries- even royalty is advised on cultural differences, so it can be respected. I am fed up with the whole thing. Never has a religion done so much to change the WHOLE world- and not in a good way.

  9. I don’t care who you are or what religion you have but don’t import your prejudicial behaviour to countries that have accepted you as a migrant. This refusal to touch the opposite sex merely reinforces the abhorrent sexist nature of some groups, not only Muslims, and should not be permitted. As for the anthem stunt, if you’re going to accept all that a country offers, why can’t you stand for the anthem? I just don’t understand why people are expected to change their own ways to accommodate newcomers. If you choose to migrate to find a more acceptable living circumstance, then accept your new culture.

  10. Joý boaz  

    The Muslim men that raped so many young girls in Sydney a few years ago must not have been reading their book re not touching

  11. Years ago when I was working in Distance Education, we would visit communities that practiced their own religion/faith (not Islam) and were told that they did not shake hands. At first I was offended but then decided that it was their right to practice what they believed. That is their democratic right. I have to say that their children were gorgeous and among our best students.

  12. This happened in Switzerland, NOT in Australia – unless you read further than the headline you will not pick this up. I am fifth generation Australian, and I was brought up in a family which adhered to good manners (think Emily Post if you can remember that far back). I was taught that it is up to the lady to proffer her hand if she wishes to shake hands – and remember, our manners and customs are from the English way of life, not “our Australian customs”. I feel really sad that Starts at Sixty has to throw in anti-Muslim posts every so often to bring out the anti crazies – but then I guess it boosts their sponsor status.

    • Susan Bell  

      I agree Ally, this was in Switzerland not Australia and it is up to the woman to chose how she greets someone. I do not like touching, neither hand shakes or kisses and have refused both on many occasions. Also the children who did not need to sing the National Anthem, this was allowed as it was Ramadan and the national anthem is viewed as a song of rejoicing not suitable for ramadan. I myself never ever sing the national anthem, I despise the words and it sounds like a dirge and I do not remember the words without a copy of the words in front of me. And yes I am tired of the anti muslim articles the appear here, the faux shock horror let’s all feel outrage again over something that does not matter at all.

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