Muslims Lose Swiss Passport Bid Over Handshake Refusal

A Muslim couple has given up a legal battle to gain Swiss citizenship after they were refused because they did not want to shake hands with people of the opposite sex during their interview. 

In order to obtain a Swiss passport, part of the process includes an interview in which they have to demonstrate knowledge of Swiss affairs and integration into Swiss society.

Swiss officials argued by refusing to shake hands, the couple clearly showed that they did not qualify for the Swiss passport. They also noted the couple struggled to communicate with members of the opposite sex.

They said it was evidence of the couple’s failure to integrate and failure to respect gender equality and after the decision was announced in August last year, the company launched a legal challenge.

But Swiss officials announced that the pair have now withdrawn the challenge, meaning the decision to refuse the passport is now confirmed.

Announcing the confirmation of the Swiss decision official said it was a condition of obtaining a passport that aspiring citizens need to be well integrated into the community and demonstrate an attachment to Switzerland, its institutions and with respect for the Swiss legal order.

The couple, who were not named, were reportedly from North Africa originally and had made the application for passport after settling in the city of Lausanne.

The mayor of Lausanne, Gregoire Junod, confirmed at the time and freedom of religion was enshrined in local laws but “religious practice does not fall outside the law.” They said that the decision to refuse the passport was nothing to do with religion, purely about the respect for gender equality.

FDP City Councillor Pierre-Antoine Hilbran who was one of the original interview panel that decided to reject the couple and announce their decision to withdraw the appeal said: “The constitution and equality between men and women prevails over bigotry.”

In 2016, a Swiss school decided to exempt two Muslim boys from shaking both male and female teachers’ hands after they refused to shake hands with a female teacher. The news caused uproar and led to the family’s citizenship process being suspended.

In neighbouring France, an Algerian woman was denied citizenship after refusing to shake the hand of an official during her citizenship ceremony.


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Story By: Michael Leidig, Sub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News

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