Swimming together, living together: The meaning of a European court verdict on Muslim girls and school swimming lessons

13 January 2017 - 17:34, by , in banking, News, Swiss, Switzerland, No comments

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AZIZ OSMANOGLU and his wife Sehabat Kocabas were both born in Turkey around 40 years ago, but they are long-standing residents of the city of Basel. Mr Osmanoglu migrated to Switzerland at the age of 10, but later moved back to pursue advanced Islamic studies in his homeland, where he met his spouse. Eventually, he brought her to Basel.For many years, the couple has been in dispute with the local authorities over whether or not their two older daughters, born in 1999 and 2001, should have been obliged to take part in mixed swimming along with the other boys and girls when they were at primary school. In 2010 they were obliged to pay 1400 Swiss Francs (about as many American dollars) as a penalty for keeping their daughters away from sessions at the pool.   This week, the European Court of Human Rights gave its verdict on the case. It upheld the right of the regional authorities of Basel to impose the fine, vindicating the view of the Swiss government. Any infringement of the family's religious freedom was over-ridden by the authorities’ right and duty to provide children with basic education, the judges found. This included imparting the ability not only to swim but to live together in a cohesive society. As the verdict noted, “in the [Swiss] government’s view, if it was …

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