Muslim couple denied Swiss citizenship for ‘their refusal to shake hands with opposite sex’

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The municipality of Lausanne, a Swiss city has blocked a Muslim couple’s citizenship application citing ‘their refusal to shake hands with members of the opposite sex’, AFP reported.

The municipality said it refused to grant the couple’s citizenship application over their lack of respect for gender equality, Lausanne mayor Gregoire Junod told AFP.

He said a municipal commission had questioned the couple several months ago to determine if they met the criteria for citizenship, but had determined in the ruling made public Friday that they missed the mark on integration.

He refused to divulge the couple’s nationalities or other identifying details, but said they “did not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.” They also “showed great difficulty in answering questions asked by people of the opposite sex,” he said.

Junod said that freedom of belief and religion is enshrined in the laws of the Canton of Vaud, which encompasses Lausanne. However,”religious practice does not fall outside the law,” he said.

The vice-mayor, Pierre-Antoine Hildbrand who was part of the three-member commission that questioned the couple told AFP he was “very satisfied with the decision” to deny the couple’s application.

“The constitution and equality between men and women prevails over bigotry,” he said. The couple has 30 days to appeal the decision, Junod said.

Earlier in 2016,  two middle school Syrian brothers had not shook hands with their teacher after saying that it countered their religious beliefs, which had causes an uproar after the school had allowed it. This is because it is a deeply established Swiss tradition for students to shake their teacher’s hands as a sign of respect. Later, regional authorities overruled the decision.


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