Switzerland seems to have won a case at the European Court of Human Rights. It regarded a decision that a pair of Muslim parents should send their two daughters to mixed-sex swimming lessons at school. On Tuesday, the court in Strasburg decided that the Swiss authorities did nothing wrong. They reportedly insisted that the parents should do this. Nobody violated the freedom of religion, according to them.
An older case comes back into the spotlight
It all started back in 2008, when two Muslim parents, Aziz Osmanoglu and Sehabat Kocabas, refused to send their two daughters to mixed-sex swimming lesson at their school. Still, the authorities in Basel insisted that they do it, but the parents still said no. The officials offered them the possibility to wear the so-called “burkinis” to classes (a swimming suit which covers the whole body). Also, they allowed the girls to change alone, without the presence of any boy nearby. So, in 2010, the authorities fined the parents with 1,400 Swiss francs, which is about $1,380. The parents, who have both Turkish and Swiss nationality, sued the authorities shortly after.
Now, it seems like the European Court of Human Rights supported the Swiss authorities’ decision and concluded that no religious freedom was violated. According to them, the parents should have sent their daughters to the swimming classes. Many have said that this case is a sold proof of putting religious freedom against social integration. There is also the problem of how far must a nation go in accepting various religious beliefs. This applies especially to Muslim ones, which everybody knows are so severe.
An extended struggle
This decision may have a very important impact on similar, future ones. However, it comes at a time when Europe is still struggling to find a balance in what concerns the presence of immigrants. Many far-right political parties in various European countries have numerous times said that many Muslims have not managed to fit in with the European ways of life.
A somewhat similar case happened back in May, also in Basel, and it involved two Syrian brothers. They refused to shake their teacher’s hand because of religious beliefs. There, the authorities also decided that the two boys could not do that because it did not fit with the common sense rules of a European country. The boys’ decision incited many controversies and people got very mad because of the situation.
This summer, in France, authorities banned burkinis from around 30 towns. They reportedly did not fit with the French culture and way of life. In Denmark, the authorities in a town ordered kindergartens and care centers to introduce pork dishes into their menus. Muslim immigrants saw this as a targeted decision. It was supposed to distance them from the Danish people and make their integration more difficult. It is a widely-known fact that Muslim people do not eat pork at all. The representatives of the Muslim family involved in the swimming class situation did not comment on the court’s decision, but they have three months to appeal it.
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