Swimming lessons obligatory for Muslim girls

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Muslim girls must take part in mixed school swimming lessons before they reach puberty. With this ruling the court rejected a complaint brought by Muslim parents living in Switzerland. Commentators welcome the decision but warn that its significance shouldn't be overstated.

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Spiegel Online (DE) / 11 January 2017

Don't exploit isolated cases for clash of cultures

The impact of the European Court of Human Rights' ruling shouldn't be overestimated, Spiegel Online comments:

“At urban schools it has long since become routine for Muslim girls to wear a burkini for swimming lessons - if the school offers swimming lessons at all, that is. The fact that swimming lessons are gradually disappearing from school timetables altogether across Germany is what should really upset us. The case in Switzerland doesn't merit all the fuss. … But wherever Muslim pupils are concerned emotions immediately run high. Today it's pupils refusing to participate in swimming lessons or to shake hands, tomorrow it will be the introduction of Sharia law, people argue. These fears are unfounded, because there are only a few isolated cases of pupils refusing to shake their teacher's hand or parents not letting their daughter go swimming. It is right that they aren't allowed to have their way. But to act like they stand for something bigger, for the Islamisation of all Europe, is nonsense.”

Le Temps (CH) / 10 January 2017

Ruling will defuse the debate

The ECHR's judgement is good news for several reasons, Le Temps believes:

“First off, it confirms the primacy of the collective interest over individual demands: integration and the socialisation of children, regardless of their origins, culture or religion, represents a primordial social objective. In this way, the integrative role played by schools has thus been forcefully reaffirmed. In this context, special exemptions can only be the exception. And logically, the freedom of religion takes second place. In European societies that are under pressure to absorb new populations, this judgement will also serve a political purpose. In Switzerland, the nationalist and sovereigntist right is exploiting fears associated with what it calls 'creeping Islamisation'. ... In this context the ECHR's decision should have a soothing effect.”

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