CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 25, 2016 – Did you ever wonder how the Swiss managed to remain neutral when they were in the very heart of a world gone mad during World War II?
Perhaps a recent citizenship decision demonstrates precisely how the world’s oldest active democracy is able to restore sanity to an increasingly politically correct planet.
The story emerges from the northwestern corner of the country in Basel, where Switzerland borders France and Germany at a bend in the River Rhine. Two Muslim girls who refused to participate in school swimming lessons because boys were present were denied citizenship.
The girls, ages 12 and 14, had made their application several months ago but were refused.
The reason: failure to adapt to Swiss culture.
It was that simple. Assimilate into Swiss society or pay the consequences.
As the president of the naturalization committee, Stefan Wehrle, told a broadcast outlet during an interview, “Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized.”
Want to be Swiss? Obey the rules, laws and customs of the country to become a citizen. It matters not whether you have lived in Switzerland for a long time, can speak one of their three primary national languages – Swiss German, French or Italian – or are gainfully employed.
Islam, in its various incarnations, does have religious rules about separation of genders. In Saudi Arabia girls do not attend schools with boys. In many cases, where young women visit a museum or participate in similar activities, the females are sequestered from all males in the area. It is common knowledge that Saudi women are not permitted to drive a car.
Thus, it was not unreasonable for two Muslim girls to hold the belief on religious grounds that they could not participate in activities, such as swimming, when boys are around.
But the girls no longer live in a Muslim country and are now required to adapt to the rules of their new surroundings IF they want to enjoy the benefits of citizenship.
Common sense in Switzerland reigns supreme.
Unlike the U.S. and many other countries, Switzerland regards it as vitally important that potential naturalized citizens demonstrate they have become assimilated into their new environment by respecting local customs and traditions. This is considered more important than knowing how the president is elected or how many cantons (states) there are in the country or who William Tell was.
The solution is so simple and logical it defies the convoluted methods other nations use to grant citizenship.
Years ago, when George W. Bush was president, the uninformed media had a field day with a picture showing Bush holding hands with a Saudi leader. What the press failed to understand was that it is common practice in Saudi culture for men to hold hands in certain situations and during special occasions.
Bush, therefore, was merely showing respect for Saudi culture by adhering to one of their customs.
The case in Switzerland regarding the two young women and their application for citizenship is no different.
In 2014, Irving Dunn, an American who lived in Switzerland for almost 40 years, was denied citizenship because he could not name any of his Swiss friends or neighboring villages. As the committee stated, “The applicant’s answers have shown that his motive for naturalization is not about integration but about the personal advantages it offers.”
End of story.
Another case involving Islamic culture and Swiss traditions took place recently when two Muslim brothers refused to shake hands with their female teacher. Once again the brothers used religion as the basis for their conduct, even though it is a common practice for students to shake hands with teachers in Swiss schools.
Soon after the incident, local authorities suspended the naturalization request by the boys’ father, who was an imam at a mosque in Basel.
Local councils in Switzerland make the initial decisions regarding a naturalization application. If the town council denies the request, it is not forwarded to the canton and federal authorities for further review.
With the whole world at war more than seven decades ago, the Swiss applied their principles to the raging insanity surrounding their country, just as they have done since its founding in 1291.
Today those basic ideals still survive, and Switzerland is one of the most prosperous countries in the world thanks to its pragmatism and common sense.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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