LAUSANNE - A Swiss federal court has rejected a request from a Muslim girl to be excused from swimming lessons because the teacher was male, saying that integration was more important than religion.Integration of foreigners is more important than their religious beliefs, the Lausanne-based Federal Court, Switzerland's highest court, said in its ruling on Friday, May 10 and cited by Swiss Info news agency.
The case was first taken to court when the family of a 14-year-old Muslim girl asked for being exempted from swimming classes.
Though the girl was allowed to cover up under an Islam-conforming burkini, her family objected to allowing their pubescent daughter to swim under the gaze of a male teacher.
The family added that their girl already knew how to swim, having attended a private class for Muslim girls.
In 2011, her parents sought permission for their daughter to be excused from swimming lessons that took place every five weeks under the supervision of a male teacher.
But Swiss authorities rejected th request and have now been vindicated by the ruling of the Supreme Court.
According to the ruling, obligatory swimming lessons take precedent over religious duties.
The court also referred to the fact that the school had provided separate lessons for boys and girls.
Switzerland is home to an estimated 400,000 Muslims, out of a population of more than 7 million, most of whom are immigrants from Albania and elsewhere in the Balkans.
Muslims' right to practice their religion was the subject of a huge controversy in 2009 in connection with a popular vote to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland.
In contrast, a government report conducted in the wake of the ban found that most Muslims in Switzerland are well-integrated and don't generally experience problems related to their religious faith in everyday life.