A 15-year-old Muslim schoolboy in Switzerland who refused to shake the hand of a female teacher as he claimed it went against his religious beliefs, has been told he must now do so or face disciplinary measures.
Amer Salhani, had said a local Swiss tradition where teachers and pupils shook hands went against the teachings of his faith. Initially the high school, in the town of Therwil, Basel-country, agreed to exempt Salhani and his older brother, who left the school at the end of June (2016). However the exemption sparked outrage in Switzerland, where the tradition is widely observed.
Now Salhani has been told by the local education authority that unless he shakes his teacher's hand, he will face disciplinary action and could be fined as much as 5,000CHF (£4,000).
An official said: "The public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of conscience of the students.", according to a report by the Express.
Monica Gschwind, who heads Therwil's education department said: "Shaking hands with teachers is deeply rooted in our society and culture. For me it is clear: the handshake is enforced - no ifs, no buts." Salhani's parents have the right to appeal the decision. According to The Local, the family have had their application for Swiss citizenship suspended while the row is sorted out.
The incident mirrors a similar case in Germany, where a Muslim youth refused to shake the hands of a teacher and the female Principal. Several teachers walked out in protest, following the incident in June of this year at Kurt-Tucholsky School, Hamburg.
Europe has seen mass migration in recent years, much of it from the Middle East, and many of whom are from Muslim backgrounds. There has been a growing backlash against some aspects of islamist culture which some politicians have begun to tap into, either because of a genuine commitment to gender equality - or in order to boost electoral chances.