$5K Fine for Students Who Won't Shake Teacher's Hand

Swiss authorities say handshake tradition outweighs freedom of religion
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2016 4:44 PM CDT
$5K Fine for Students Who Won't Shake Teacher's Hand

Swiss authorities ruled Wednesday that any student who refuses to shake a teacher's hand could earn their parents a stiff $5,000 fine, USA Today reports. Last month, two teenage Muslim students at a Swiss middle school refused to shake hands with female teachers, citing an interpretation of the Koran that forbids physical contact with members of the opposite sex outside of family. The school said that was fine as long as the teens, who are brothers, didn't shake hands with male teachers either. But the resulting uproar—shaking hands before and after classes is a Swiss tradition—inspired the education department to intervene.

“The public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of religion," authorities ruled. They said teachers have "the right to demand a handshake." According to the BBC, some Swiss Muslims had urged the government to not let the boys get away with what they characterized as "extremist demands." More fall out from Handshakegate: The teens' family saw its application for citizenship halted while the government investigates them. (Read more handshake stories.)

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