Sanity in Switzerland: What's in a handshake?

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Wed Jul 13 16:57:25 PDT 2016

----- Forwarded message from Jim -----
Hugh Fitzgerald: Switzerland: What’s in a Handshake?

By Hugh Fitzgerald
May 27, 2016 12:12 pm 


Sometimes it’s the little things that are most telling. In Switzerland
it has long been customary for students to shake the hands of their
teachers at the beginning and end of the school day. It’s a sign of
solidarity and mutual respect between teacher and pupil, one that is
thought to encourage the right classroom atmosphere. Justice Minister
Simonetta Sommaruga recently felt compelled to further explain that
shaking hands was part of Swiss culture and daily life.

And the reason she felt compelled to speak out about the handshake is
that two Muslim brothers, aged 14 and 15, who have lived in Switzerland
for several years (and thus are familiar with its mores), in the town of
Therwil, near Basel, refused to shake the hands of their teacher, a
woman, because, they claimed, this would violate Muslim teachings that
contact with the opposite sex is allowed only with family members. At
first the school authorities decided to avoid trouble, and initially
granted the boys an exemption from having to shake the hand of any
female teacher. But an uproar followed, as Mayor Reto Wolf explained to
the BBC: “the community was unhappy with the decision taken by the
school. In our culture and in our way of communication a handshake is
normal and sends out respect for the other person, and this has to be
brought [home] to the children in school.”

Therwil’s Educational Department reversed the school’s decision,
explaining in a statement on May 25 that the school’s exemption was
lifted because “the public interest with respect to equality between men
and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the
freedom of religion.” It added that a teacher has the right to demand a
handshake. Furthermore, if the students refused to shake hands again
“the sanctions called for by law will be applied,” which included a
possible fine of up to 5,000 dollars.

This uproar in Switzerland, where many people were enraged at the
original exemption granted to the Muslim boys, did not end after that
exemption was itself overturned by the local Educational Department. The
Swiss understood quite clearly that this was more than a little quarrel
over handshakes; it was a fight over whether the Swiss would be masters
in their own house, or whether they would be forced to yield, by the
granting of special treatment, to the Islamic view of the proper
relations between the sexes. It is one battle – small but to the Swiss
significant – between o’erweening Muslim immigrants and the indigenous

Naturally, once the exemption was withdrawn, all hell broke loose among
Muslims in Switzerland. The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland,
instead of yielding quietly to the Swiss decision to uphold the
handshaking custom, criticized the ruling in hysterical terms, claiming
that the enforcement of the handshaking is “totalitarian” (!) because
its intent is to “forbid religious people from meeting their obligations
to God.” That, of course, was never the “intent” of the long-standing
handshaking custom, which was a nearly-universal custom in Switzerland,
and in schools had to do only with encouraging the right classroom
atmosphere of mutual respect between instructor and pupil, of which the
handshake was one aspect. The Swiss formulation of the problem –
weighing competing claims — will be familiar to Americans versed in
Constitutional adjudication. In this case “the public interest with
respect to equality” of the sexes and the “integration of foreigners”
(who are expected to adopt Swiss ways, not force the Swiss to exempt
them from some of those ways) were weighed against the “religious
obligations to God” of Muslims, and the former interests found to
outweigh the latter.

What this case shows is that even at the smallest and seemingly
inconsequential level, Muslims are challenging the laws and customs of
the Infidels among whom they have been allowed to settle. Each little
victory, or defeat, will determine whether Muslims will truly integrate
into a Western society or, instead, refashion that society to meet
Muslim requirements. The handshake has been upheld and, what’s more, a
stiff fine now will be imposed on those who continue to refuse to shake
hands with a female teacher. This is a heartening sign of non-surrender
by the Swiss. But the challenges of the Muslims within Europe to the
laws and customs of the indigenes have no logical end and will not stop.
And the greater the number of Muslims allowed to settle in Europe, the
stronger and more frequent their challenges will be. They are attempting
not to integrate, but rather to create, for now, a second, parallel
society, and eventually, through sheer force of numbers from both
migration and by outbreeding the Infidels, to fashion not a parallel
society but one society — now dominated by Muslims.

The Swiss handshaking dispute has received some, but not enough, press
attention. Presumably, it’s deemed too inconsequential a matter to
bother with. But the Swiss know better. And so should we.

There’s an old Scottish saying that in one variant reads: “Many a little
makes a mickle.” That is, the accumulation of many little things leads
to one big thing. That’s what’s happening in Europe today. This was one
victory for the side of sanity. There will need to be a great many more.


More information about the cypherpunks mailing list