6/28/16, "Swiss deny citizenship to Muslim girls who balked at swimming with boys," USA Today, Helena Bachmann
"In the latest move to deny citizenship to those who balk at Swiss
culture, authorities rejected the naturalization application of
two Muslim girls who refused to take school swimming lessons because
boys were present.
The girls, ages 12 and 14, who live in the
northern city of Basel, had applied for Swiss citizenship several months
ago, but their request was denied, Swiss media reported Tuesday.
girls, whose names were not disclosed, said their religion prevents
them from participating in compulsory swimming lessons with males in the
pool at the same time. Their naturalization application was
rejected because the sisters did not comply with the school curriculum,
Basel authorities said.
“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions
violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” Stefan Wehrle,
president of the naturalization committee, told TV station SRF on Tuesday.
case shows how those who don’t follow Swiss rules and customs won't
become citizens, even if they have lived in the country for a long time,
are fluent in one of the national languages — German, French or Italian
— and are gainfully employed.
In April, members of an immigrant
family in the Basel area were denied citizenship because they wore
sweatpants around town and did not greet passersby — a sure sign that
they were not sufficiently assimilated, the naturalization board
Another recent case sparked widespread outrage in Switzerland
when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female
teacher, also citing religious restrictions. Shaking hands with
a teacher is a common practice in Swiss schools.
that incident was widely publicized, authorities suspended the
naturalization request from the boys’ father, an imam at the Basel
The swimming case involving the two girls is the first to deny
naturalization applications for not complying with a school program,
setting precedence for future cases, Wehrle said.
This is not the
first time Switzerland’s Muslim community has stirred controversy over
swimming lessons. In 2012, a family was fined $1,500 for forbidding
their daughters to participate in swimming classes.
eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled that no
dispensations from swimming lessons should be made on religious grounds.
Switzerland, unlike in the United States and many other countries,
integration into society is more important for naturalization than
knowledge of national history or politics.
Candidates for citizenship
must prove that they are well assimilated in their communities and
respect local customs and traditions
In Switzerland, local town
or village councils make initial decisions on naturalization
applications. If they decide a candidate is not an upstanding member of
the community, the application will be denied and not forwarded to
canton (state) and federal authorities for further processing.
what happened in 2014 to Irving Dunn, an American who has lived in
Switzerland for nearly 40 years. He was denied Swiss citizenship
because he could not name any of his Swiss friends or neighboring
villages, authorities said.
“The applicant’s answers have shown
that his motive for naturalization is not about integration but about
the personal advantages it offers,” the naturalization commission ruled.
Dunn did not deny the charge, telling the English-language
news service, The Local, "It can be expected that persons mainly want
personal advantages from citizenship," such as the right to vote and
live indefinitely in Switzerland."