Muslim boys’ handshake refusal causes stir in Switzerland


(RNS) A decision allowing two Muslim schoolboys to refuse to take part in the tradition of shaking hands with their (female) teacher has triggered a national controversy in Switzerland.

The two teenage boys were allowed to avoid greeting the teacher with a handshake at the school in Therwil, northern Switzerland, after saying it was against their Muslim faith to touch a woman outside their family.

The boys are brothers, ages 14 and 15, and one of them posted material on his Facebook page in support of the group that calls itself the Islamic State, the Basler Zeitung online newspaper reported.


The boy can happily study in a 3rd world backwater, if that is his preference. If his parents support such a thing, let them all move to a state he supports. I’ll bet he’ll change his mind when food is scarce, books are missing, a desk is not available, and a rap with a ruler is the lightest punishment of the day.


It’s a thing for them. Let it be.


It’s also a thing for the Swiss too.

It’s sort of like getting invited over to dinner at a guy’s place where he never wears shoes inside. But you grew up wearing shoes all the day long. So whose rules get followed? His of course.

Peace Dave.



Should a Catholic be forced to eat meat on Lenten Friday’s? Of course not and that seems to be the same thing we are dealing with here.

As silly as I find the student/parents concern I see this is a matter of religious freedom.


If a Catholic’s invited into a guy’s home and that guy serves him a steak on Friday the Catholic’s supposed to eat it. Because hospitality and good relations are more important than symbolic acts.

At least that’s the take away I get after reading chapter 10 in the Acts of the Apostles.

I mean what those two boys are doing is being good young Pharisees. Righteous and bold. But totally ignorant about the feelings and welfare of others.

But maybe that’s the sort of stuff God really likes? When a guy puts his principles before people? I don’t know. :shrug:


The boys have an honest belief that this is immoral. A similar concept is present in ultra conservative Judaism. They shouldn’t be compelled especially if another greeting can be substituted. See “May I shake a woman’s hand” on the Chabad website. If you replace Muslim with Jewish in the story I feel like certain people would lament the lack of decorum in modern society.


We can disagree about the religious policies of other faiths but that doesn’t give us the right to impose our views on them.

I do see what you are saying that these kids should be able to show simple civility but if their faith demands differently then we owe them that acknowledgment.


A similar argument is made against certain bakers. And florists


I guess the thing to know is if they bothered to bow deeply to her in respect instead. Or if they just looked at her as if she was a disease.

But I agree they shouldn’t be forced. No one can be forced to be gracious.

But I wonder how far a guy would get going to their country and trying to high-five all the girls? I bet not very far. I bet that guy’d have to learn to follow the rules of the land pretty quick.

But here? Just bring your rules with you when you come. And we’ll follow them instead of ours. Because you’re stronger than we are. We’re too nice to point out that you came to us in a desperate state. And we took you in. And made you welcome. But when it comes time to return the favor? You double down on traditions from a place we’ve never been. And muddy the waters for everyone else. Without a thought for how it might make us feel.

Because we don’t know if you’re really being rude. Or obstinate. Or deliberate. Or calculating. Or earnest.

It all sort of looks the same from a certain angle. :rolleyes:


We don’t really owe people anything. We can offer to show respect. We can even be gracious and smile instead of being offended. But the goal of anyone coming to a different place is to fit in as best as possible. To make the host understand that you appreciate the gesture.

To understand that your religious leanings looks a lot like disrespect.

Otherwise what’s going to stop the rest of the students from making it a part of their religion to not shake the hands of foreigners? Is that Ok? Is that ever Ok?

If we’re supposed to bend on the side of the secular so that all faiths get along why does this one group get to keep their traditions strong while everyone else bends flat?


This is not the same as wearing shoes inside. The two kids were not at the teacher’s house. They were in school. Why should a person be forced to shake hands with anyone?

We shake hands in America too, but should it become international news if two kids don’t want to shake hands, regardless of the reason?

This whole thing is an attempt to belittle religion in general.

Personally, I think it’s silly that the boys can’t shake their teacher’s hand; however, I think it’s even more ridiculous that this is being turned into international news.

People are so quick to bend over backwards to allow the tiny minority of “transgender” people to use the bathroom of a person of the opposite sex, however, if someone refuses to shake a woman’s hand out of chastity reasons they react like it’s a grave injustice to women by evil religion.

We Catholics needs to defend all religious rights (regardless of how silly) because the secular world believes our beliefs are silly. And if regardless of how “discriminatory” it sounds not be able to shake a woman’s hand is, we must defend that right because secular society believes our stance against birth control and same sex marriage is discriminatory.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.


Freedom to work for someone is one thing. Because no one should be forced to take money they don’t want.

But making it a free game of snubbing who we want for religious reasons? That’s a sure way to split hairs. And a sure way to make people resent you and yours.

And it’s not even in the Koran. So it’s really just a custom that these guys thought would be cool to try out in public. The other Muslims who think these boys are stand-outs are not impressed.


I don’t actually know if they are immigrants does it ever state that they were? Would you be happy to cover the heads of the women of your family when is a Muslim country because it is a polite thing to do. Would you cover up a crucifix because it might be offensive? The reality is that what is forbidden or allowed by one religion can be offensive to someone else. Most people are happy with respecting the norms of others while not feeling compelled to change they’re culture. It’s an Atticus of mutual respect. So I don’t high five the women in Iraq and they don’t force American women to veil themselves. If either of these lines are crossed then action is warranted but not in the religious belief itself.


School’s a public place. Rules of the land apply. This is Switzerland and not the States. We’ve got a nice big tradition of bouncing off each other’s boundaries. We’ve got a lot of ways around this.

But these guys are in a country where this is done. And they’re being rude for not doing it.

It’s like going to Japan and refusing to bow to anyone in greeting because you’ve got half a notion it means you are showing them some kind of obedience due to God alone. So you make a point of being rude in public on purpose. What have you gained from that?

You get to stand tall while others bow. Good for you. I’m sure it just makes God’s day.


But your argument was not work related. It was that the boys put their religious objections ahead of cultural norms. Thus I think that your origional statement is similar to the pro gay argument against Christians.


I wonder as a Catholic man what would happen to me if I put my religious objections ahead of cultural norms?

Have any of you ever asked yourselves this?


I thought that it would be a mortal sin if I knowingly conducted in an immoral activity (or even in an activity that I perceived as gravely immoral despite not being immoral in reality) knowingly and especially if it was not compelled by the law. I agree there is room for trying to not be overtly offensive but I didn’t know that social consequences were excused to act immorally.

I’ll go further and use the example of the Christian persecutions before Constantine. Most were in retaliation against Christians who did not follow the cultural norm of making a sacrifice to the emperor. True, this is not a perfect example but people shouldn’t be compelled to violate conscious without a very grave societal reason.


In Sweden what is the significance of shaking the teacher’s hand and can it be expressed in another way by the boys?


There is no Quranic principle against shaking one’s female teacher’s hand. This is simply this family’s or this boy’s cultural preferences masking itself under the guise of religion. Does anyone think Muslim men are forbidden from shaking the hands of females? If so, world leaders from ocean to ocean are violating religious tenets.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit