Switzerland to Muslim Students: Shake Your Teacher’s Hand or Pay $5,000

25 May 2016

When two teenage Muslim students from Syria told their school in Switzerland that to shake their female teacher’s hand would violate their religious beliefs, administrators were sympathetic. So they made an exception: Unlike the school’s other students, who shake each teacher’s hand at the beginning and end of each class period, the two boys would be exempt from shaking anyone’s hand at all.

Turns out the Swiss national government takes their handshakes seriously. So seriously, in fact, that a regional authority announced Wednesday that the two boys would shake their female teachers’ hands from now on — or pay a $5,000 fine.  The local education department in Therwil, which is near the city of Basel, said in a statement Wednesday that the final decision was made because “the public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of religion.”

This came after the citizenship process for the teens’ family was halted due to the incident. Authorities are now looking into their father’s 2001 asylum claim. He is an imam.

Last month, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga went on television to say that “the handshake is part of our culture.”

“We cannot accept this in the name of religious freedom,” she said.

There are roughly 350,000 Muslims in Switzerland, and it’s unclear whether other exceptions were quietly made before this one. It’s also unclear what the two boys will do next. In an interview with Swiss media, one said they “could not just delete [their] culture as if it were a hard drive.”

Media coverage related to immigrants and its effects on public opinion

March 19, 2014

 

The reactions of German media towards the result of the Swiss referendum were immense. Most  comments by German media outcried their “shock” about the negative attitudes of parts of the Swiss population towards immigrants. Some journalists were caught off guard, without reflecting their own work, asking how biased media coverage on immigrants has become. While selecting topics for the news, majority of media representatives choose issues such as the “headscarf”, “migration into the welfare system” and “minarets” issues. Just as “bad news are good news”, contributions that mirror the economic, cultural and social vibrant lives of immigrants are hard to find. Immigrants and their issues are relatively represented at the local level, speaking out their claims in local media. They are clearly underrepresented in media at the national, which has a greater influence on the German public opinion.

Recent German media coverage on immigrants and Islam has been very negative. With regards to the upcoming elections for the European parliament, media representatives are responsible to report fair, balanced and comprehensive when covering stories about immigrants. This is said to be the only path for media to avoid the indirect support for right-wing populist parties, which scapegoat immigrants for their political interests.

 

 

MiGAZIN: http://www.migazin.de/2014/03/19/die-geister-die-sie-selbst-mit-rufen/

Three Lessons from Switzerland’s Immigration Referendum

February 24, 2014

 

BERLIN—On February 9, a small majority of Swiss voters approved a proposal by the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to significantly limit migration inflows from other European countries. The Swiss vote garnered attention across Europe because it now requires the renegotiation of certain agreements between the European Union and Switzerland — a non-member — which had thus far been ensured by bilateral treaties. The issues at stake are the free movement of goods, capital, services, and, most importantly, people — the EU’s “Four Freedoms.” Based on the referendum, the number of Germans, French, or Polish citizens allowed to migrate to Switzerland will be contingent on a quota system.

http://blog.gmfus.org/2014/02/23/three-lessons-from-switzerlands-immigration-referendum/

Swiss referendum on immigration

February 12, 2014

 

According to Robert Misik, Xenophobia was just one of the reasons why 50.3% of those who voted in Switzerland’s recent referendum on immigration back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries; a provincial mentality and anti-EU sentiment also played a role.

 

Read more: http://en.qantara.de/content/swiss-referendum-on-immigration-the-swiss-against-the-world

“Beating a Woman is a right”

The phrase on live TV from the President of the Central Islamic Council, a convert to Islam was heavily criticized by the main Muslim organizations in the country, has raised an immense controversy in the Swiss media.

Invited to a political debate on Swiss television, Central Islamic Council President Nicolas Blancho, argued that “beating a woman is a human right,” attracting a controversy in today’s Swiss media.

After Blancho said this, he did go pale in reaction to the realization of other guests in the studio, including National Councillor Oskar Freysinger. And another director sitting in the audience, Gerhard Pfister, invited Blancho to apologize publicly, both distanced themselves from Blancho’s statement as it is inconsistent with the values of Swiss law.

“This is not far from stoning and FGM, and other things like that,” shouted the two politicians against the president of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland.

Blancho, local media reported, and ‘was silent for a while,’ and was visibly embarrassed after he yelled “Beating women is part of the freedom of religion.”

“I will not provide any justification” said Blancho “because I have not committed any crime. Everyone is free to believe what they want, as long as they respect the law.”

 

“Government, are you waiting for aggression?”

June 7, 2013

 

This is the tough stance of the president of the League of Muslims in Ticino. “The UDC posters (previously reported on by Euro-Islam: http://www.euro-islam.info/2009/04/28/swiss-high-court-rules-udc-muslim-posters-not-racist/) reminds us of the propaganda in the ’30s”

 

The debate focuses on the controversial posters of UDC that portray two immigrants riding two Swiss; the poster has finally been brought to the attention of the Muslim community. The president of the League of Muslims in Ticino, Gasmi Slaheddine wrote to the government requesting decisive action. “Say enough to these constant attacks on the Muslim community,” it reads.

 

According Slaheddine, “the majority of people of the Islamic community in Ticino are well integrated, both socially and professionally. There are men and women who contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country as doctors, engineers, economists, artisans, teachers, cooks… to name just a few examples. Many of these workers are of Swiss nationality.”

Muslims pose no ‘threat’ to Switzerland

Following the controversial debate on integration and assimilation of Islam in Switzerland, which led to the legal passing of a right-wing initiative of the populist SVP party against the construction of minarets in the country in 2009, three postulates requested to urgently obtain further information upon the state of affair of the Muslim community in Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Council subsequently charged the Ministry of Federal Justice and Police to write a report on the community, which was released last week Wednesday. The report qualifies the diverse Swiss Muslim community as posing no ‘threat’ to the country, whose integration is slowed down rather by ‘linguistic and sociocultural barriers than questions of religious order’. No ‘specific measures’ are to be taken to ‘better integrate’ the Muslim communities of the country, the Ministry concluded.

The report indicates that the Muslim population of the country has remained demographically stable in the last 10 years. Whereas in 2000 3.6% of the Swiss population identified as Muslim, in 2010 it was 4.5.%. These numbers contradict the SVP parties fear mongering rhetoric and campaign which predicted the demographic doubling of the Muslim community in Switzerland on the basis of vague estimations made between 1970 and 2000 and led to their successful 2009 anti-minaret campaign.

The Ministry’s report underlines the heterogeneity of the Muslim community, which is neither monolithic nor static, but made up by communities of different ethnic, linguistic, national and cultural backgrounds as well as sectarian differences. Amongst the Swiss Muslim population, those who are practicing are numbered as a small minority (only 15%). Only half of the population is part of an organised Muslim group and the other half practices their religion privately and in an ‘individual manner’.

The report also lists a number of specific public domains, such as the army, education or health, where Islam doesn’t pose any obvious problems. Areas of conflict arise, according to the report, in the fields of funerals, forced marriages, djihadism or discrimination at workplace.

Accordingly, the Federal Council underlines that ‘severe problems’ of the religious groups and its members only occur in exceptional circumstances and are often dependant on the individual rather than the group or a Muslim organisation. In only few rare cases imams have attempted to impose extremist ideas in mosques, whereas only a dozen of mosques in the country are believed to be subject to extremist interpretations of Islam. The majority of Swiss mosques adhere to a moderate teaching and practice of Islam.

What the government report, however, also reveals is the existence and prevalence of an intersection of discrimination faced by the country’s Muslim population. Being both ‘foreign’ and Muslim puts members of the 350.000-400.000 strong community in positions of increased vulnerability to discrimination, harassment and hate crimes on the basis of racism and xenophobia.

Switzerland report

A Muslim party will candidate to Parlament Elections

14 August 2012

The Catalunya Òmnium-Muslim[1] party formed in late 2011 – will be presented at the forthcoming elections to the Parliament, which will be held in 2014 – in order to bring together the votes of Muslim immigrants living in Catalunya.
The president of the far-right formation Plataforma per Catalunya (PXC), Josep Anglada, regretted this and has claimed that “is a further step in the Islamist strategy of penetration in the institutions and accumulation of political power.”

Gasmi Slaheddine, president of the Muslim League of the Swiss canton of Ticcino was also there.The speaker of the party is Rachid El Attabi, owner of an halal butchery in Catalonia.
http://www.islamenfrance.fr/2012/08/18/le-parti-politique-musulman-catalunya-omnium-presentera-sa-candidature-lors-des-prochaines-elections-en-catalogne/

 


[1] Political party (the name means Catalonia for all) constituted in 2011 aiming to protect the Islamic rights; and congregating all Muslims living in the area, namely the Moroccan and the Pakistani community. http://www.alertadigital.com/2011/10/20/musulmanes-residentes-en-cataluna-crean-un-partido-politico-catalunya-omnium/

Islamist Army Lieutenant Declared a Security Risk

A Swiss army lieutenant has been declared a security risk by the Swiss federal constitutional court and has decided that he should be kept away from all confidential information. Gibril Muhammad Zwicker converted to Islam three years ago and has since become a member of the controversial Central Islamic Council of Switzerland (IZRS).
Zwicker has made a number of comments which have raised eyebrows in the top ranks of the military, ranging from supposed acceptable forms of corporal punishment for women to Islam’s being the only true religion. A conviction for the purchase and consumption of cannabis, for which he was fined 300 Swiss francs, contributed to the decision of department for the oversight of personal security in the field of information and material security (IOS) to recommend that he be suspended from all access to confidential information.
In his defense, Zwicker states that he has done nothing contrary to the military or anything that might put anyone in danger. Moreover, he feels betrayed by the army and his superiors, given that he had always correctly accomplished his duties and followed orders.

Swiss Youth and their Faith(s)

A recent study by Christopher Morgenthaler of Bern University on the relationship between Swiss youth and religion has shown that religion remains an important part of their lives: 40% characterize themselves as a “religious person,” somewhat higher than in France (35%), the UK (32%), or Germany (32%), though far behind Italy (84%). More surprisingly, the study seems to show that highly-religious youth are in fact more accepting of religious plurality than other groups.
The relationship between youth and religion in Switzerland has also been studied by other experts, such as Janine Dahinden from the University of Neuenburg, who speaks of a new “do-it-yourself-faith,” highlighting the eclectic belief system of the youth. On the other hand, Andreas Tunger-Zanetti of the University of Lucerne prefers to highlight the aspect of “religious illiteracy” that is to be found among Swiss youth today.
The study showed that youth with a migratory background belonging to non-Christian groups (Muslims or Hindus) were in general more religious than others. However, even they are not as anchored in their beliefs as certain Christian groups, and often the “homeland” in general plays a greater role for their identity than their religion.