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.”

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

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

Report from Switzerland explains Muslims are well-integrated, but more information is needed

5/8/2013

 

According to a report published earlier this week, the vast majority of Muslims living in Switzerland are well integrated into society. The report found that Muslim religious affiliation does not pose a problem to Muslims’ everyday lives and rarely generates conflicts. The report focused on the situation of Muslims in Switzerland, and was developed by several federal agencies. Experts estimate that 350,000 to 400,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, of which about a third have Swiss nationality. Many are descendants of immigrants. The vast majority of Muslim immigrants come from the Western Balkans and Turkey.

No Islamic community is homogeneous: In Switzerland, there is not a homogenous Islamic community, but rather many different communities, which are distinguished mainly by the ethnic, national and linguistic diversity. Typically, these individual communities are not connected to each other.

For many Muslims, religious affiliation is not the main feature of their identity. Only small portion of them (between 12 and 15%) practice their faith, for example by attending a mosque regularly. Muslims from the Western Balkans, in particular, often incorporate Islam into their daily lives. At the same time, the report said the people of Islamic faith feel doubly discriminated against, both as foreign nationals and as Muslims.

Anti-Islam Politician to Step Up International Campaign

27 December 2013

 

In an interview with NOS television anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders announced that he will step up his campaign on an international level in 2013. The PVV leader claims he will “fight” Islam “from Australia to America, from Switzerland to wherever.”

 

Amnesty International on the distress of calling yourself Muslim

29 April 2012

According to an Amnesty International report released this week, Muslims in Europe face discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in employment and education. After analyzing the situation of those who profess this religion in Belgium, Spain, France, Netherlands and Switzerland, the NGO said that the opinion polls reflect “fear, mistrust and negative opinions about Muslims and Islamic culture.” ‘Go to your country’ “The most common phrase we hear is’ go to your country.” I’m tired and I do not answer … it does not enter the head of many that I’m not a foreign, I’m Spanish, Basque “complains Jennifer Chamizo, now 25 years old and who embraced Islam (expression that Muslims prefer to the word ‘convert’) when she was 20.

Amnesty International collected a study that sets the number of Muslims in Spain on about 2.3% of the population. Many of the enquired people acknowledged having to hide at work that they are Muslims. Sources familiar with the Muslim community in Madrid say that, with rare exceptions, those who go to mosques to make the ‘Shahada’ never do it accompanied by their family, despite being a very important event for them. “Many believe that Spain is tolerant, I also thought so, but when you’re the different one, you understand, and feel, that there is still a lot of rejection,” says Habiba. 37% of the Spanish believe it is acceptable to expel a student from school simply because she is wearing headscarves and the same percentage said to have supported protests against the construction of Muslim places of worship, according to the AI report.

Amnesty Reports on Discrimination Against Muslims in the Netherlands

24 April 2012

 

A new report by Amnesty International reveals that Muslims face discrimination in the Netherlands and other European countries. The report notes that Muslims face particular discrimination in education and on the job market, and addresses the pending ban on the burqa on the grounds of public safety. Also addressing discrimination in Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France, the report adds that governments should dispel misconceptions about their Muslim population, though also stressing that criticism of Islam within the bounds of freedom of speech is not the same as ‘specific discriminatory patterns’ against Muslims.

Amnesty International: “European Muslims are discriminated against”

April 24, 2012

 Amnesty International reports that European countries discriminate against Muslims who show their faith publically. This is especially visible in places of education and at various workplaces. The report focused on Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Amnesty urges those governments to do more on prevention of prejudices about Islam. The organization is particularly critical of the countries which had banned face veils (niqab) and the religious symbols in their schools.

First Minaret in Saarland

18.02.2012

The Turkish Muslim community in the city of Volklingen celebrated the completion of the first minaret in the federal state of Saarland last week. The plans to build a minaret on top of the Selimiye Mosque, a former cinema, had divided Volklingen’s population last year. While the argument was reminiscent of the ban of minarets in Switzerland, opponents of the minaret in Volklingen could, however, not enforce a similar ban.