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 Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga who insisted that “shaking hands is part of (Swiss) culture”.
On Tuesday, authorities in the canton of Basel-Country where Therwil is located, said that naturalisation proceedings for the family had been put on hold.
Basel-Country spokesperson Adrian Baumgartner, in an email, confirmed a report from the ATS news agency on the suspension.
The report also noted that such suspensions are common in citizenship procedures as authorities often require supplemental information about the families concerned.