A European court has ruled that Muslim girls must take part in mixed school swimming classes after rejecting a case by a Turkish-Swiss couple who had requested that their daughters be exempted from such activities.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday accepted that the refusal by Swiss authorities to excuse children from the compulsory swimming lessons interfered with their religious beliefs, but ruled that it was justifiable on the basis of protecting children from social exclusion.
School has "a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned," said the ECHR.
It added that swimming lessons are "not just to learn to swim, but above all to take part in that activity with all the other pupils."
The ECHR further noted that “very flexible arrangements” had been made accessible to the family, such as permitting the girls to wear burkinis during lessons.
It also stipulated that a $1,380 fine levied on the parents for noncompliance to former warnings was appropriate “in order to ensure that the parents do send their children to compulsory lessons, which is above all in their own interest, for socialization and successful integration.”
In May, Switzerland ruled that if Muslim students refuse to shake their teachers' hand at the beginning and end of lessons, their parents will face fines of up to $5,000.