Germany: Co-ed Swimming Goes to Court
The court also noted that the family had chosen to live in Germany, where mixed swimming classes are the norm. "Besides, we live in a Western society in which we do not live by the rules of the Koran. And as on the street, the youngster can can close his eyes to the girls... or wear long swimming trunks." — Chief Judge Uwe Sievers
A German court has refused to allow a Muslim student to skip co-ed swimming lessons based on her religious beliefs.
The case is an example of the growing number of conflicts between German school officials and Muslim parents who want to keep their children from participating in sports activities, biology classes and field trips out of religious reasons.
The 12-year-old girl, originally from Morocco, but now attending a school in the German city of Frankfurt, had refused to take part in swimming lessons because she said she was uncomfortable being close to bare-chested boys.
After the girl's teachers gave her a lower grade for failing to attend the lessons, her family filed a lawsuit in which they argued that, according to Islam, the girl was not only forbidden from showing herself to boys, but also from seeing the topless boys.
On September 28, the Hessian Administrative Court in Kassel rejected the girl's plea and ordered her to begin attending swimming lessons without further delay.
The presiding judge, Hans Rothaug, declared: "The applicant should have attended swimming lessons. In this particular case, there are no grounds for exemptions."
In its ruling, the court said the girl could wear the full-body swimsuit (also known as the "burkini"), which is already being used by several other Muslim girls at her school, and that this solution would be sufficient to guarantee her religious freedom.
Citing an earlier ruling by Germany's constitutional court, the court also stated that one of the objectives of the education system is to promote integration, and that the fundamental rights of the freedom of religion must be balanced with the rules established by the school.
In this context, the court said that religious minorities are required to avoid segregating themselves from the society at large, and that the girl must find a way to reconcile her religious beliefs and her obligation to integrate.
Rothaug said that while he had no doubt that the girl was sincere about her religious convictions, "a burkini is a swimsuit that meets the dress code of Islam" and wearing one would be an "acceptable solution" to her problem. He pointed out that four out of five students at her school, the Helene-Lange Schule, have an immigrant background, and that more than one-third are Muslims.
The court also noted that the family had chosen to live in Germany, where mixed swimming classes are the norm.
The girl's lawyer, Klaus Meissner, said she does not want to wear a burkini because "it's a plastic bag and makes her look ugly." In addition, seeing other boys and girls violates her modesty. "I do not want to see boy in short clothes. I do not like this," the girl said. In an earlier ruling, a lower court in Frankfurt had already rejected the girl's case.
Other administrative courts in Germany have ruled similarly in similar cases, but because of the fundamental importance of the question, the court in Kassel said it would ask the Federal Administrative Court (one of the five federal supreme courts in Germany) to review the case.
In June 2012, an administrative court in the northern German city of Bremen ruled that Muslim primary school students are not eligible for exemption from co-ed swimming lessons and that even in grade-school special exemptions can be claimed only after the onset of puberty.
In 2009, the Ministry of Education in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia stated that Muslim students must attend swimming lessons and participate in school trips.
In May 2008, a court in Düsseldorf ordered a 12-year-old Muslim girl to participate in co-ed swimming lessons. The court ruled that although the obligation to attend swimming lessons with boys does represent an infringement on the freedom of religion, the state's educational mission is more important. In any case, the problem could be greatly reduced by wearing swimwear that does not hug the body.
In a landmark case in June 2005, an administrative court in Düsseldorf dismissed a complaint brought by two Muslim parents from Wuppertal who wanted to keep their 11-year-old son out of a co-ed school swimming class. The parents had argued that in the swimming pool, the young boy could not avoid seeing his female classmates in their bathing suits, and that this amounted to "a dangerous influence on the emotional world of young people."
But the court rejected their case, saying that religious beliefs are not a reason to prevent children from attending swimming classes and said that the boy must attend them in the future. In a precedent-setting ruling, Chief Judge Uwe Sievers stated: "Religious convictions stand, in this case, against the duty of the school. But it is not the task of this court to challenge the Koran. Instead, we have to try to reconcile both interests. Besides, we live in a Western society in which we do not live by the rules of the Koran. And as on the street, the youngster can close his eyes to the girls... or wear long swimming trunks."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
Reader comments on this item
|Secular coercion [82 words]||Avi Keslinger||Oct 9, 2012 13:13|
|↔ In the House of the West Western Norms Apply Only And Those Who Immigrate Have Agreed To It [112 words]||Tibet||Oct 12, 2012 17:51|
|↔ Secular coercion [206 words]||Avi Keslinger||Oct 17, 2012 02:05|
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."
by Alan M. Dershowitz