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Muslim Women and Swim Classes in Switzerland and Europe

© Goltun, 2017 Muslim Women and Swim Classes in Switzerland and Europe

Main point: Are pools the new frontier for debates over Muslim integration? In Europe, it can seem that way

PARIS – When must a newcomer adapt and when must a host society accept?

Europe has been struggling with where to draw this line with its Muslim population, and the latest splash comes from a swimming pool in Basel, Switzerland.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg seems to have sided for now with “adapt,” in ruling that Swiss Muslim girls must swim with boys. It rejected the appeal of two Swiss citizens, originally from Turkey, who cited their Muslim faith in seeking to keep their two prepubescent daughters out of a mixed, mandatory swimming class.

In dismissing the parents’ challenge, the court acknowledges the blurriness of these lines. While its decision might interfere in religious freedom, the court places a higher value on social inclusion in the public school system.

Across Europe, similarly, leaders and citizens are finding that these lines aren’t always clear. When German leaders voiced plans to ban full-face veils while driving cars or in court – a measure backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in December – a debate raged over whether Germany was reverting to a historic intolerance.