Muslim students in a Swiss school will no longer need to shake hands with their female teachers, in a verdict that has sparked indignant outcry in the country.
Education authorities reached the decision in Therwil, a Swiss municipality in the canton of Basel-Country, after two male students complained about the custom of greeting all teachers with handshakes.
The two Muslim students claimed shaking hands of a person of the opposite sex is prohibited in Islam, with the exception of close family members.
On Monday, the school’s administration spoke out in defense of their stance. School rector Jurg Lauener stated a compromise has been reached with the students involved that “they are no longer be allowed to shake the hand of any teacher, male or female. For us, that addresses the question of discrimination.”
The local Therwin council did not support the decision but did not intervene either, claiming it was the school’s responsibility to set its own rules.
While opponents of the motion claim the ruling to be discriminatory against women and serves to objectify women, certain Islamic groups argue it is actually a sign of respect for a woman.
Although it is nowhere written in the Swiss constitution that students absolutely have to shake the hands of their mentors, it is culturally deemed as a sign of reverence in the country.
Those who think people are getting upset over nothing have turned to humor on social media:
Switzerland where a refused handshake can quickly evolve to a political issue— ?St3th? ¯_(?)_/¯ (@St3thrich) April 3, 2016
greetings in Switzerland are so awkward like... are you doing three kisses or a hug or a handshake or just a nod you never know— andrea. (@thegingerniinja) November 8, 2015