SHAFAQNA- Switzerland has put on hold the citizenship procedure for a Muslim family whose two teenage boys refused to shake hands with their female teachers.
Authorities in the canton of Basel-Country said on Tuesday that naturalization proceeding for the family had been suspended.
The move came after two brothers, aged 14 and 15, informed education officials in the northern municipality of Therwil that they were required to avoid physical contact with non-family member women for religious reasons.
The assertion came as shaking hands with teachers before and after class is often regarded as a standard custom in the European state.
The two were exempted from the practice, with Therwil officials instructing them to avoid contact with male teachers too in a bid to avoid gender discrimination.
However, the Therwil officials’ decision sparked a row, with Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga insisting that “shaking hands is part of (Swiss) culture.”
Basel-Country spokesman Adrian Baumgartner confirmed the suspension in the citizenship process, which according to Swiss news agencies is a common practice when authorities require supplemental information about the families concerned.
Meanwhile, Basel-Country has requested an expert legal opinion, which Therwil has vowed to follow.
The father of the two boys is an Imam based in Basel. The Syrian national moved to Switzerland in 2001 and was granted asylum.
An estimated 350,000 Muslims are living in Switzerland, making over four percent of the country’s eight million population.