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Muslim couple denied Swiss citizenship over handshake refusal

Tanya Edwards
Yahoo Lifestyle
A Muslim couple’s citizenship application was blocked by a Swiss city for lack of respect for gender equality. (Photo: Getty Images)

The city of Lausanne in Switzerland has blocked a Muslim couple from becoming Swiss nationals over their refusal to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.

The municipality said it refused to grant the couple’s citizenship application over their lack of respect for gender equality, Lausanne mayor Gregoire Junod said, according to the Guardian.

Junod said the municipal commission had questioned the couple several months ago to determine whether they met the criteria for citizenship. However, according to the panel, the couple did not meet the standards for immigrant integration.

The stated immigrant integration policy is “living together peacefully and offering equal opportunities to all.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2007 the Swiss federal government laid out, in the Ordinance on the Integration of Foreigners, stricter federal guidelines for the integration process of non-EU/EFTA citizens. The most important measures of integration, according to the ordinance, are mastery of a Swiss national language (German, French, Italian or Romansh) and speaking that language in the home. Other criteria include an understanding of Swiss social life and structure, Swiss laws and the legal system, and matters of community respect.

The mayor refused to divulge the couple’s nationalities or other identifying details, but said they “did not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.”

They also “showed great difficulty in answering questions asked by people of the opposite sex,” he said.

The freedom of belief and religion is enshrined in the laws of the Canton of Vaud, which encompasses Lausanne, but “religious practice does not fall outside the law,” the mayor stressed.

The city’s vice mayor, Pierre-Antoine Hildbrand, was on the three-member commission that questioned the couple. He told the Guardian he was “very satisfied with the decision” to deny the couple’s application.

“The constitution and equality between men and women prevails over bigotry,” he said.

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