Muslim schoolboys who refused to shake hands with their female teacher will face a steep fine. This is the latest turn in a controversial matter that started last April in a Swiss school, when two Muslim boys refused to shake hands with their (female) teacher, because that would go against the Koran’s teachings. The boys argued that Islam forbids men to have physical contact with a woman outside of the family unit. But this explanation did not convince the authorities in the canton of Basel, who interpreted the boys’ actions as a severe form of contempt and discrimination against women. They will face a fine of up to 5,000 Swiss francs (€4,500) if they violate what is a traditional gesture of politeness in the Swiss classroom.
Had it been Japanese boys who did not want to shake their Swiss teacher’s hand, I doubt anyone ever would have heard about it, to say nothing of it culminating in a new fine for not shaking one’s teacher’s hand. It is because they were Muslim boys that it became an issue, which means that it is precisely an example of xenophobia and anti-Muslim hostility. These are minors, for goodness sake. Individual children may be comfortable with one teacher and not another. Teachers are supposed to be trained not to take that personally. It is appalling that this ever became an issue. The parents should sue the school in the ECJ. I certainly agree that if Swiss teachers cannot be culturally sensitive enough to allow basic bodily boundary issues (which can vary dramatically by culture) to be respected and non-confrontational in a school setting, then there should be other publicly funded schooling options for Muslim children. Not all parents can afford parochial schools, which can be expensive. For a female teacher to demand from male students (children or teens) that they shake her hand against their will is an act of domination. It is beyond inappropriate in any school, anywhere.
For sure Muslim students there have no problem about shaking hands with “men” teachers. They just don’t want to violate the Islamic regulations regarding the limits between men and women.
So please keep it away from respect and non respect, and find another way to measure respect. I am not so familiar with the Swiss culture at school, but probably good Muslims – who are following prophet Muhammad who ordered not to touch stranger women – will present very good example for respect others, even they have different religions. In which Bible is it prescribed that the only way of showing respect to female teachers is to shake hands with them? Keep your religion of bestial modernity with yourselves. Let us follow our traditional religion. This is a case of modernity gone berserk. Europeans must respect the Islamic code of inter-gender relations. We Muslims are forbidden from intimacy or physical contacts with “ghair al-mahram”. So this forcible shaking of hands of non-mahram females is offensive to Islamic morality and culture. Switzerland is authoritarian and rigid. They seem not to understand how deeply this is ingrained in one’s psyche–the avoidance of men and women touching if they are not related, even haram.
Switzerland is not a bubble of innocent provincial people. They are well connected to the global discussion on the “Muslim problem.” There is no way that the discussion inside Switzerland about what to do with two adolescent Muslim boys who want to avoid touching females, was not always already part of this global discussion. And even if we grant the near impossibility that it was so isolated, the fact remains that it is a global issue, and part of a larger set of global issues in an on going global discussion. And in that global context and discussion, this is what I see. The same people who are vocally advocating the privileging of local custom over individual liberty in cases concerning Muslim minorities in non-Muslim societies, are also vocal in advocating the opposite for Muslim societies themselves – the disruption of local customs and values in the name of individual liberty.
Human rights are protected for minority communities in a country. The customs of the majority do not get special protection. Why? Because they are the customs of the majority, which already tend to be dominant if not dominating. It is precisely because of the tendency of majority cultural norms to be dominating that international human rights laws protect minority communities from them. I see human rights violations along two lines here: (1) the handshaking ritual is clearly a form of ritualized (silent) nationalist oath, enacted in a daily way at school, something that religious people do not have to engage in as they are able to show support for the nation otherwise and it is usually read as a violation of their religious right to hold God above everything, even the state; and (2) the right to the physical integrity of one’s personal body cannot be violated by the state or the majority community without significant cause, e.g., a violent act, which might allow a state to put a citizen in prison. Children being forced to have physical contact with an adult against their will and the customs of their community, or even just in general — even in a handshaking ritual — can have emotionally damaging effects on children That the handshaking is expressed and explained as a nationalist ritual is significant. There is no such thing as an insignificant ritual of forced physical obedience.
It seems that the boys did exactly the right thing in submitting a request to the school to be exempted from this nationalist ritual on religious grounds. And it appears that the school did exactly the right thing in allowing it, initially. If the wider Swiss community sees Muslim boys requesting not to handshake differently from other boys requesting not to handshake, as suggested below, that indicates a broad anti-Muslim hostility among the Swiss people, who are the ones who made this an issue after the school officials had already solved the problem appropriately by accepting the boys’ request. Again, I think the Imam and his family should take the case to the ECJ. It is appalling. Switzerland has been homogeneous for a long time. If it wants to be heterogeneous, it has to be heterogeneous. It is not going to forcibly “convert” Muslims to its homogeneous preferred ontology or culture. If it doesn’t want to be heterogeneous, then don’t make the lie by taking in refugees in pretence of offering them a safe (read that, open and not hostile) home.
West must learn to respect and tolerate those who are different. You have failed to respect and tolerate Black community, who speaks your language, share your culture and faith. English, Irish, Welsh and Scott hate each other, sharing the same culture, faith and language. It is difficult for you to accept, respect and tolerate Muslims with different culture, languages and FAITH. You have no choice but to accept them for your own survival. The number of Muslims is on the increase because of immigration, high birth rate and conversion. By the end of this century, nearly 50% of British population would be Muslim.
I think that the first question should be asked here : whether a public school is committed to produce one type of ideal citizens by eliminating diversity or committed to accommodate diversity and acknowledge individual domain as much as possible. If it is the second option, this handshake case highly questionable in my opinion. There is a difference between refusing handshake and refusing history or biology. Forcing someone to handshake is clearly to enter into his individual domain, his body. This training is about human relationships and etiquette. Teaching this type of social interaction is also different from teaching, for example, racial differences or gender equality because as opposed to these cases, the lack of handshake would not harm anybody and would not necessarily cause discrimination. As we can see, refusing to touch someone because she is white or black is highly different from hesitating to touch her because some sort of religious boundaries. I mean, a religious teenager could be in love with a girl and indeed would really desire to touch her, yet would not shake her hand because of his religious commitment. In this context of discrimination, it is perhaps crucial to teach not to discriminate people because of religion, gender and race in the work places or social environments. Yet, if the existing hiring custom necessarily requires handshaking, perhaps the existing custom itself is not inclusive enough and the education is perpetuating this discrimination.
The question, what if these religious students refuse to attend history or biology, is a very important question. I understand that public schools must have a curriculum that every student needs to attend. Once a student enters into school, he accepts to take those courses. In this case, he has to learn a history that he might eventually not agree. Yet, the existence and continuity of this individual disagreement would show that this history class could not indeed enter into his individual domain. (Anyways, isn’t it the reason that we can argue for freedom of speech). When it comes to biology or for example a training for physiotherapy that might require to touch a person, the touching in these cases is for a scientific and practical purpose, not for a social behaviour with a certain ethics. If the religious person is not comfortable, perhaps he has to quit learning science in a public school.
I guess what I am trying to say is that freedom, individual agency, and inclusiveness in European democracies are indeed not perfect but limited and should be discussed further and in more detail.
I’m so glad I have a wide view of life and the world. These things, surely, are not the important things of life, but giving a smile to someone, looking after the old and infirm and doing at least one good thing a day for the benefit of others around us surely are more important things. I don’t like ritual in any way and that goes for religious ritual. Jesus just went out into the world and his main message was: “Love one another as I love you” and if everyone got up in the morning and showed love to others – well, our world would be a happier place. So, I hope you all have a happy day and I send you all my love – and shake hands if you wish, but a smile says more.
I’m not sure what kind of teacher would demand a handshake from a student in any case. I never have. Both males and females aren’t allowed to have physical contact with members of the opposite sex who aren’t immediate family members. It’s a matter of modesty. These boys quite possibly believe it’s disrespectful to shake a woman’s hand – I wouldn’t feel offended in that situation.
I’m very uncomfortable with this ruling and would be very uncomfortable if any of my colleagues tried to oblige a student to shake hands against his/her will. When that culture infringes of a child’s basic human rights, yes. Respecting is one thing, forcing someone to do something against their religion is wrong.Children should not be used to gain cheap political points.The handshake is almost certainly more a mindless gesture than a conscious show of respect these days anyway. Like the ‘have a nice day’ at the door of the Disney Store.
If they were my students and polite and respectful in class I wouldn’t have a problem with the lack of handshake. I don’t think a handshake necessarily demonstrates respect and I certainly don’t assume that a lack of it is a sign of lack of respect. I taught RS and a boy who has reached puberty is not allowed to shake the hand of a woman unless he is related to her. If you want, I can show you the evidence.
There are lots of ways students can show disrespect to their teachers in the classroom. That they are respectful in class is far more important to me than a handshake. I certainly wouldn’t want to shake hands with all of my students, knowing how difficult it is to get some people to wash their hands after they go to the loo. Yuk.
Supposing you had a student in your class who was wilfully disrespectful, who was sullen and uncooperative in class and who challenged your authority on a daily basis, but who was willing to go through the motions of shaking your hand at the start/end of the day. Would you shake his/her hand? Would you be happy to do so? Isn’t it better to have a student who actually does respect your authority in the classroom but who declines the handshake?
It all seems a fuss about nothing to me. And similar for the kids, imagine you were at the back of the queue and your teacher had already shaken hands with 34 other little nose-pickers & bum-scratchers. I also don’t like the idea that ‘Swiss teachers have the right to demand a handshake’. I don’t like the idea that any kind of touching that me or my kids were uncomfortable with would be demanded of us. It’s crossing a bodily autonomy boundary that I’m just not comfortable with. I mean, I spend a lot of time telling my kids that no one has the right to tell them what to do with their body and they have the right to say no to anything they’re uncomfortable with.
Shaking someone’s hand is a form of friendly greeting. Not a ritual. If you’re forced to do it against your will then there’s nothing friendly about it. It is a majority custom in the UK to celebrate Christmas.
And yet I remember amongst my close acquaintances a couple of Christians who don’t do so (because of their faith) and a couple of non-believers who also don’t. Should they be forced to wish people a “Merry Christmas”? Should they be fined if they don’t?
The Muslim community has been passing through a phase of fourth Crusades. The battleground is the field of education, where the young generation will be educated properly with the Holly Quran in one hand and Sciences in other hand to serve the British society and the world at large. A true Muslim is a citizen of the world, which has become a small global village. We are going to prepare our youth to achieve that objective in the long run. A true Muslim believes in Prophet Moses and the Prophet Jesus and without them one cannot be a Muslim. My suggestion is that in all state, independent and Christian based school special attention should be given to the teaching of Comparative Religion and Islam should be taught by qualified Muslim Teachers to make the children aware the closeness of Islam to Christianity and Judaism which will help them to think about Islam, as “A Pragmatic and Modern Way of Life,” during their life time.
The demand for Masajid, state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers, Halal meat. Muslim cemeteries and Sharia laws are nothing to do with segregation integration or community cohesion and harmony. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. The whole world belongs to Muslims. He does not want to be notoriously monolingual Brit. Being a British is a fake identity. In the past, Muslim community was a victim of Paki-bashing in all fields of life by the British society. Now it is a victim of Islamophobia by the British elites and media.
Muslim community in all western countries need Masajid, state funded Muslim schools , Halal meat and Muslim cemeteries. West must learn to respect and tolerate those who are different. Don’t these hypocrites idiots know what their ancestors did to Native American Indians they slaughtered 150 millions of Native American Indians! and also do they know that Great Britain invaded 80% countries around the world? They should call them terrorist first and as well call their ancestors terrorist! British did the same to Native American Indians and sadly they still treat Native American Indians badly! So Americans Indians know how you Muslims feel! They stolen Indian land and killed 150 millions of Indians the British did! They were forced to go to the white man’s school and learn the language, culture and faith of the white man. Inspite of that, they are still the under dogs of the American society.
Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. The West has never been at ease with Islam since the Crusades. It is unfortunate that huge oil supplies lie under the Arabian Deserts. It is the West that stirred the trouble that led to 9/11. That attack was a desperate act of by men prepared to lose their life. We need to get to grips on who is the terrorist? On 24 November 1963, Lyndon Johnson said, “the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination. Some three million lives were lost in the consequential battles. The US had to pull out due to Public Opinion. Communism lived on. So who was the terrorist?
The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.
Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.
The shocking level of targeting of the Muslim community of Birmingham is indicative of the normalisation of the dehumanisation of the Muslims of Britain. Under the pretext of “extremism”, criminal undemocratic and unethical abuse of public institutions and the Muslims of the UK can occur without much accountability. This pervasive attitude, especially amongst officials like Michael Gove needs to change. Our schools are truly trying to develop our children to do well at schools so later in life they are able to stand on their own two feet, but if we stop our schools from doing this than our country will have up rise of unemployment, benefit issues, crime levels high, I think its time for you apologize and allow practitioners to do their job right.