The Swiss Handshake and Muslim Disapproval

In his book The Open Society and Its Enemies Karl Popper, as an advocate of tolerance, argued that intolerance should not be tolerated, for if tolerance allowed intolerance to succeed, tolerance itself would be threatened. As Popper put it, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”


Here, in a brief synopsis, is the problem afflicting the West. In an effort to display compassion to its Muslim migrants, Western governments have allowed militant Islam to use openness and tolerance as instruments for social and political change. A recent report from Switzerland captures the spirit of this contention.


In Switzerland it is customary for students to shake the hand of teachers at the beginning and end of each school day as a sign of solidarity and respect. Recently the Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga felt compelled to explain the purpose of this gesture because two Muslim brothers in the town of Therwil refused to shake hands with their female teacher, claiming it would violate Muslim teaching.


At first the school authorities decided to avoid trouble by granting the boys an exemption. But the local community was unhappy with the decision ultimately prevailing on the Educational Department to reverse its action. It noted that “the public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of religion.” It added that teachers have a right to demand a handshake and if students refuse, sanctions called for by law will be imposed including a fine.

While this seems like a trivial matter, it is not. It was a contest between the Swiss ability to determine its own national standards and the Islamic position that wants special treatment. Despite hysterical vocal denunciation from local Islamic organizations, the ruling held.


Clearly this case reveals the Muslim strategy throughout Europe of what should be called “legalistic jihad.” Muslims intend to use the indigenous laws and societal openness to impose their religious will. They do not seem to be willing to integrate, but rather to create a parallel society in their adopted home. While this is the immediate goal, a way to maintain influence and seemingly sustain tranquility, the long term goal is to fashion a society based on sharia.


Shaking hands is the mere thin edge of the wedge. A Muslim taxi driver in Basel may reject a passenger because he is carrying a bottle of wine. A Muslim organization might conceivable protest the construction of a kennel on the outskirts of an Islamic community. Muslim leaders could protest cars driven down the main street of an Islamic area during Ramadan. The clash of cultures is an assault on well-established traditions of manners and morals.


The Swiss leaders in Therwil won a victory for rational judgment. But this is one example in a continent facing hundreds of these legal arguments each month. In most instances, local authorities succumb, rather than face the wrath of protestors. Many Europeans have lost a sense of their own culture and why it is deserving of their defense.


Lawfare, with many Muslims, is another way of battling against apostates and non-believers. It is the companion strategy for militant jihad. In many cases like that of a handshake, the demands seem benign, but the religious sentiment behind the gesture is powerful and implacable.


Clearly openness in society is to be desired, but like anything, you can have too much of it and the condition you admire can also be the seeds for its destruction.