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After Mixed Swimming Row

Swiss Muslims Vow to Set Private Schools

BASEL – Members of the Swiss Muslim community are rallying to create their own private schools a few days after Europe’s rights court ruling made mixed-gender swimming classes compulsory.

“We know that individual clubs have set themselves the goal of opening up a Muslim private school now,” Serhad Karatekin, media representative of the Muslim Commission in the city of Basel, told Daily Mail on Monday, January 16.

The plans appeared after the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a Turkish-Swiss couple who argued the swimming mixed classes violated their beliefs.

The case was brought by two Swiss nationals of Turkish origin, Aziz Osmanoglu and his wife Sehabat Kocabas, whose daughters were born in 1999 and 2001.

All their appeals were rejected by Swiss courts, after which they took their case to Strasbourg.

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Education officials, however, said that exemptions were available only for girls who had reached the age of puberty, which the girls had not reached at the time.

In 2010, after a long-running dispute, the parents were ordered to pay a fine of almost 1,300 euros ($1,375) “for acting in breach of their parental duty”.

The court said Switzerland was free to design its education system “according to their needs and traditions”.

Osmanoglu is still refusing to send his two daughters to mixed swimming lessons, a move that has been supported by the Basel Muslim Commission.

The Muslim plans are supported by Johannes Czwalina, a theologian and business consultant from Basel.

Czwalina, who gained national fame in Switzerland after he paid the legal bills of numerous Muslims in recent years, said he would welcome a Muslim private school and would do all he can to help one open.

He felt it was ‘discriminatory’ that Muslims were being fined when they did not send their children to the swimming lessons and offered to pay for them.

Czwalina said that nobody talks about ultra-religious Jewish students who would also refuse to take part in mixed swimming classes.

“If the Jewish students were not under the protection of their own school, there would be more Jewish families affected by fines in Basel than Muslims.”

According to the CIA Factbook, Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims, representing 5 percent of the country’s nearly eight million people.

In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.