Court Says That Muslim Girls Must Attend Swim Class in Switzerland

January 10, 2017 Updated: January 10, 2017

Europe’s court of human rights has rejected an appeal by a Turkish-born couple who were fined in Switzerland for keeping their daughters out of mixed-gender, mandatory public-school swimming lessons for reasons linked to their Muslim faith.

The European Court of Human Rights decision upholds a Swiss federal court ruling that education officials had not violated the family’s rights of freedom of conscience and religion in the case in Basel dating back to 2008.

In a summary of the ruling announced Tuesday, the European court based in Strasbourg, France, acknowledged “interference” in freedom of religion but that public school had a “special role” in integration, particularly of children of foreign origin.

Such issues of compulsory public education and religious belief have prompted similar cases in neighboring Germany and Liechtenstein in recent years.

They were ruling on a challenge brought about by Swiss-Turkish parents from Basel—Aziz Osmanoǧlu and Sehabat Kocabaş—who refused to send their children to mixed swimming lessons, according to The Independent.

In all, the ECHR unanimously threw out the parents’ complaint, saying there was no violation of their freedom of religion, arguing that “successful social integration according to local customs and mores” is paramount.

“The Court observed that school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned,” a statement said.

“The children’s interest in a full education, thus facilitating their successful social integration according to local customs and mores, prevailed over the parents’ wish to have their children exempted from mixed swimming lessons.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.