Switzerland: Muslim Students Face $5,000 Fine If They Do Not Shake Teachers' Hands

Muslim students in Switzerland face a fine of $5,000 if they refuse to shake the hand of their teacher, education authorities have ruled. Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Regional education authorities in Switzerland ruled Wednesday that the guardians of students who refuse handshakes with their teacher face a fine of up to 5,000 Swiss Francs (£3,400; $5,040).

Shaking hands with teachers is a Swiss tradition and the latest ruling was made after two Muslim students, both boys, refused to shake the hand of their female teachers for religious reasons.

Last month, the school in question in the northern Swiss town of Therwil agreed to the boys not being required to shake their teachers' hands. They said they were allowed to not shake the hands of any of the teachers, male or female, so as not to discriminate against female teachers.

Now all schools in the northern region of Basel-Country can impose a fine on parents of children who refuse to follow the tradition.

The boys had argued that physical contact with the opposite sex was against their beliefs, as they are only permitted to touch the opposite sex if they are family members or married.

"A teacher has the right to demand a handshake," the authorities said in a statement.

The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) threatened a court challenge if the fines were imposed on students, saying that the regional authority had overstepped the mark in changing the ruling by the school.

The Federation of Islamic Organizations of Switzerland (IOS) told AFP news agency that the tradition of handshaking in schools was acceptable but said that the legal ruling was too far.

"It could have been resolved more gently by involving the Federation of Muslims in Basel, which could have acted as a mediator," a spokesman, Pascal Gemperli, said.