Switzerland has suspended the citizenship process for the family of two teenage Muslim brothers after the boys’ refusal to shake hands with their female teachers sparked a national debate over religious freedoms.
The brothers, aged 14 and 15, had informed education officials in the northern municipality of Therwil that physical contact with women who are not family members violated their faith.
They were then exempted from a Swiss custom of pupils shaking teachers’ hands, with Therwil officials instructing them to avoid contact with male teachers as well to avoid gender discrimination.
But the compromise sparked a heated response from leading Swiss politicians including the justice minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, who insisted that “shaking hands is part of [Swiss] culture”.
I’m on the side of the young lads here I think. yes, the host culture has the right to impose all sorts of behaviour on those it accepts. And yet I cannot see that a liberal society (not that Switzerland is one in many senses) has the right to insist that you shake your schoolteacher by the hand. Society can impose any societal punishment it wishes (look at those damn weirdos! Wouldn’t shake hands with those who taught them all those years!) but law and the government?
The defining line comes down to, I guess, that the law can only impose restrictions upon the freedoms of the individual where and when not doing so impinges on the freedoms of other individuals. So, for example, law can and should insist that the sworn evidence of man and woman, girl and boy, is of equal value. And you also get to shake hands or not with anyone you damn well like.