Sin-chronized Swimming: German Court Holds that Muslim Girl Must Swim Despite Religious Prohibitions

A twelve-year-old Muslim girl and her parents have been told by a German court that she must attend co-ed swimming lessons despite her religious objections to wearing formfitting clothing. The court in North Rhine-Westphalia said that the school’s interest in teaching swimming outweighs the bona fide religious objections of the parents. It appears that free style outweighs free exercise in Germany.

The administrative court in Düsseldorf held that the girl can be punished for failing to attend the coed swimming classes. In a uniquely stupid rationalization, the court noted that much of the lesson would be below the surface anyway.

While I objected to the recent decision of Harvard to exclude males from a gym, here, I find this decision highly offensive. It is one thing to exclude people based on gender and another thing entirely to force a girl to violate her religious beliefs as a condition to going to school. It is particularly abusive when we are talking about swimming lessons. The school could have easily reached a compromise, such as requiring the parents to certify lessons outside of school. As with the decision of France to ban veils, one can certainly understand why Muslims sense hostility from such decisions.

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3 thoughts on “Sin-chronized Swimming: German Court Holds that Muslim Girl Must Swim Despite Religious Prohibitions”

  1. Hey jill.. I can confidently assure you that there are reasons behind her religion controlling women..

  2. I find this and other stories like it heartbreaking. The German govt. isn’t teaching this girl autonomy and neither is her religion. Certainly the govt. can and should offer an alternative for her. I also hate to see a 12 year old girl be taught that her body must be covered due to an archaic religious’ tradition.

    In all the religions sects that require women to cover their bodies the rational is that men will see a woman and be distracted (ie: sexually aroused). I do not understand why a man can not look at a woman/girl and see a friend, a child, a colleague. It is also not clear to me why when a man feels sexually towards a woman he is unable to deal with those feelings as a normal part of life.

    Every woman should have the right to feel the wind in her hair and the water moving over her body no matter who else is present at the time. To be cut off from the natural world because of religious rules is wrong.

    I do wish the govt. would reinforce the girl’s autonomy by working out this issue. I equally wish her religious sect (and others like it) stopped trying to contol her and other women.

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