American immigration officials are no doubt baffled by Switzerland’s latest move against Muslim immigrants: they are denying the immigrants citizenship for the failure to successfully integrate into Swiss society.
To become naturalized in Switzerland, a “person must be well integrated, familiar with customs and traditions, law abiding, and pose no threat to internal or external security,” reports SwissInfo. The alpine nation values societal integration far more than knowledge of national history, politics, or language. Those seeking citizenship must demonstrate knowledge of and respect for local traditions and customs. They must “fit” into their community.
Here’s an example: two Muslim teenage girls who had applied for citizenship in the northern city of Basel refused to participated in school swim lessons because there were male students in the class. The two girls argued that their religion prevents such behavior, and their request for citizenship was denied.
“Whoever doesn’t fulfill these conditions [i.e. school curriculum] violates the law and therefore cannot be naturalized,” says President Stefan Wehrle of the naturalization committee.
He says this example will set the precedence for future situations.
In May, education authorities established a $5,000 fine for students refusing to shake their teachers’ hands (a Swiss tradition) after two Muslim boys claimed that shaking a female’s hand violates their religion.
In another example, the naturalization board denied citizenship to members of a German-speaking Muslim family because they walked around town wearing sweatpants and refused to greet passersby – indicated that they were not assimilated into Swiss culture.
“The Basellandschaftliche Zeitung newspaper reported that while the family met many of the requirements for Swiss naturalization such as being familiar with the customs and geography of where they live – the village of Bubendorf in the canton of Basel-Country – a committee of residents overseeing the process ruled that they were nevertheless insufficiently Swiss to be given passports.”
Such denials are not limited to Muslims. An American immigrant was denied citizenship two years ago because he did not know the names of his neighbors.
Many are praising such isolationist behavior, noting that the Swiss are serious about maintaining a national identity and culture (and are not cowed by the idea of political correctness). Others have predictably criticized Switzerland for denying citizenship to immigrants who have lived in the country for many years, have a job, and are fluent in one of Switzerland’s three national languages (French, Italian, and German).
Editor’s note: The Swiss have an amazing ability to cut to the core of an issue. If you come to Switzerland you must have a desire to become Swiss. Switzers know what they are and are not afraid to let people know.