Authorities in a northern Swiss region have ruled that religious belief is no excuse for refusing to shake a teacher’s hand.

The new rule reverses one school’s controversial decision to grant exemptions for Muslim students unwilling to touch the opposite sex.

 

Parents of students who refuse to shake a teacher’s hand at schools in the northern canton of Basel-Country would face fines up to 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,400), regional education authorities ruled.

 

The decision also targets Muslim pupils who are not willing to touch the opposite sex according to their religious belief.

 

“A teacher has the right to demand a handshake,” the authorities said in a statement.

 

The decision was made after a school in the northern town of Therwil, near Basel, allowed two teenage Muslim brothers to refuse to shake hands with their female teachers over their religious beliefs.

 

The two Syrian brothers, aged 14 and 15, said shaking women’s hand was against their beliefs as Muslims because physical contact with the opposite sex is not permitted in Islam.