Geneva: Switzerland has put on hold the citizenship process for the Muslim family of the two teenage brothers who refused to shake hands with their female teachers for religious reasons.
This has sparked a national debate over religious freedoms with Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga insisting that “shaking hands is part of (Swiss) culture.”
The two boys, aged 14 and 15, had informed education officials in the northern municipality of Therwil that physical contact with women who are not family members violated their faith.
Authorities in the canton of Basel-Country said on Tuesday that naturalization proceeding for the family had been suspended.
The father of the two boys is an Imam in Basel. The Syrian national moved to Switzerland in 2001 and was granted asylum.
An estimated 350,000 Muslims are living in Switzerland, making over four percent of the country’s eight million population.
Previous similar disputes have centred on Muslim parents who demanded that their daughters be exempt from swimming lessons.