Certain topics related to Muslims seem to go on and on like broken records in European countries. If it isn’t headscarves, it is swimming lessons (like these stories from Germany, Finland, and Norway). This spring, a story about yet another Muslim family refusing swimming lessons made headlines in Switzerland. In Basel, the families of five Muslim girls in elementary school were fined upon appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court for refusing that their daughters take part in mixed swimming lessons. At the base of these fines is a law, rarely enforced, meant to sanction parents who do not “maintain a favourable learning atmosphere” for their children. The original sanctions under this law, which fell almost a year ago, were against these Muslim families as well as a sixth family who took their child on summer vacation before school ended.
Like Switzerland’s minaret vote, this is a story that made a disproportionately large splash in regards to the number of people affected throughout the original case (in 2011, with some issues dating to 2010) and the appeal (March 2012). The Tages-Anzeiger notes that at the time there were around 1000 Muslim students in public schools in the canton of Basel-City, of which only the five mentioned above had a problem with mixed swimming lessons in elementary school. That’s a lot of ink spilled for five kids, and speaks a lot about the climate of Islamophobia in this country, in my opinion. [Read more...]