The Swiss Interpretation of Integration

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, UK

If I may ask, how do you define integration?  You see, the Swiss seem to think it is dependent on participation in swimming sessions and shaking hands. How absurd, you wonder.

Absurd and appalled would be a summary of my reaction upon hearing of two young Muslim teenage girls having their citizenship applications rejected for refusing to take part in swimming lessons with boys (for religious reasons) and hence deemed as not being “Swiss enough”.

This story send shivers down a Muslim parent’s spine. Not because these innocent girls’ applications were rejected or that they must have faced many repercussions from their school but rather due to the sheer burden and emotional turmoil these girls must be enduring. To be torn apart by the injunctions of one’s faith and the absurd demands of one’s country is most testing.

What is integration? Is integration to copy and become a mirror image of a typical citizen (which if I may say would be very hard to define as it is)? Far from it. The Oxford dictionary defines integration as to combine (one thing) with another to form a whole.

What a fascinating description indeed; it is to become part of one another. I could not better define true integration than as that done by the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad

“In my view integration is to love your country and to be loyal to it. It is to be proud of your nation, to honour it, to work towards its success, to be law abiding and to respect your government. It is not to ask peaceful and law abiding people to forget those beliefs, traditions and customs that they value and which do not harm the peace and law and order of their nation.”

Thus the most important objective is that of a peaceful coexistence. Would forcing girls to swim with boys, when such an activity is unfamiliar alien to them and counter to their faith be a means of promoting peace?

In similar vein, the Swiss have begun imposing fines of up to $5,000 on any parent or guardian who refuses to shake a teacher’s hand. Again, hand shaking between males and females appears to be a fundamental aspect of being “Swiss enough” to be considered for citizenship. In a recent interview with Swedish media, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad beautifully explains

“Just to shake hands is not a sign of loyalty to a country or integration. Some Christians do not drink alcohol – would you say they are not integrating in your society because they do not drink? Similarly, there are still some Jewish women who also do not like to shake the hands of men. You would not criticise them because then you would be accused of anti-Semitism!”

Thus perhaps it is time for the Swiss to focus on what qualities they want from their citizens. Perhaps it is time they considered the efforts and contributions of their citizenship applicants to Swiss society by, for example, obtaining a world class education to broaden their horizons and hence contribute socially, culturally and economically to their new home of Switzerland.

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