German court rules Muslim girls must join swimming classes

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A German court ruled on Wednesday that Muslim girls must take part in school swimming lessons with boys, in a landmark decision that touches on the sensitive relationship between religion and the state.

The decision by Germany's top court for public and administrative disputes signals that the state's constitutional obligation to educate children can take precedence over customs and practices linked to an individual's religious beliefs.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her centre-right government have sought dialogue with the country's roughly four-millions Muslims, but have also said they must make an effort to integrate and learn German.

The court said Muslim schoolgirls could not be exempted from swimming lessons, provided they were allowed to wear so-called 'burkinis', full-body swimsuits worn by many Muslim women which leave only the face, hands and feet exposed.

The plaintiff was a Muslim girl, originally from Morocco, who goes to school in the western state of Hesse. Her parents have tried for several years to stop her from joining swimming lessons with boys. She was 11 years old when the case started.

"The plaintiff has not made sufficiently clear that ... taking part in co-educational swimming lessons with a burkini breaches Muslim rules on clothing," said the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, rejecting her appeal.

Two courts in Hesse had already rejected her bid to be exempted from swimming lessons.

However, the girl's lawyer argued that she was embarrassed to see boys wearing nothing but swimming trunks.

"The Quran not only forbids being seen by others in light clothing but she herself should not see boys and girls with (swimsuits) on," Klaus Meissner, her lawyer, was quoted in German media as saying before the hearing.

The question of Muslim girls taking part in physical education and swimming lessons has prompted legal disputes in several European countries in recent years, highlighting the challenge of accommodating different religious beliefs.

German Islamic groups say they are not against burkinis.

"From our point of view, a full body swimsuit is appropriate and acceptable in Islam. However, freedom of belief and conscience should be respected," Aiman Mazyek, head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims, told German radio.

In May, the Swiss Supreme Court rejected a Muslim family's case against a school rule that their daughter had to take part in swimming classes and could not wear a burkini.

In staunchly secular France, which has banned religious dress such as Muslim headscarves and Jewish skullcaps as well as large Christian crosses in state schools, some public swimming pools have banned burkinis.

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Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: justsayin

well done Germany, common sense in abundance.
If they don't like it, let them go back to whence they came.

UK are you taking note as well?

Posted by: Umar

Just like the Westerners do in the Middle East, they learn Arabic native language of the country just like the migrants to European countries do, they wear respectful clothing in public and do not conduct in lewd acts which may be contrary to the country's religious beliefs, their children go to normal schools and not private British or American schools, they live amongst the fellows of the country and not in gated communities with a 90% expat residence, they integrate to the Middle Eastern culture so much that they give up drinking alcohol, eating pork and other things so that they are more aligned and integrated with that countries culture.

Posted by: Klay

Umar, most economic migrants to the Middle East are here on a temporary basis. They could be deported at a moments notice should they lose their jobs. There is no incentive for the majority to learn the language or integrate.

Posted by: Oldtimer

Finally! The courts lead the way that spineless politicians and condescending rights activists never did! Anyone deciding to migrate to a foreign country SHOULD learn to integrate to the culture and norms of that place, rather than trying to create their own ghettos there! They should NOT stick out like sore thumbs in an alien land. REMEMBER, NOBODY forced them to relocate, it was a conscious decision, almost always for economic reasons than anything else!

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