Four years ago, I wrote about some school girls who refused to take communal swimming lessons in the Swiss city of Basel. As a recap, from my previous article:
In Basel, the families of five Muslim girls in elementary school were fined upon appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court for refusing that their daughters take part in mixed swimming lessons. At the base of these fines is a law, rarely enforced, meant to sanction parents who do not “maintain a favourable learning atmosphere” for their children. The original sanctions under this law…were against these Muslim families as well as a sixth family who took their child on summer vacation before school ended.
These girls were recently refused citizenship by Swiss authorities. I am heartbroken for them. The crux of the matter for me is that for children this age to be candidates for naturalization, this very likely means these young ladies were either born here or arrived as babies or toddlers. This is the part that breaks my heart- if Switzerland is not home, where is home?
For those of you unfamiliar with Swiss naturalization law, Switzerland has one of the lowest naturalization rates in Europe due to a few factors- First and foremost, being born here does not confer nationality. It takes 12 years (which can be shortened to five via marriage but then you must remain married 12 years total) but generally, years spent in Switzerland before age 18 count as double. Given that the girls in the swimming scandal are in their early teens, this probably means they were born here or came here as small children. The relatively generous legal rights given to EU citizens also make most of the EU immigrants fail to find the necessity in naturalization, then some balk at the mandatory military service for male citizens. Basically to become Swiss you have to want it (be willing to wait) and need it (have a passport that isn’t as “good” as an EU one).
Another twist of Swiss citizenship is that it is triple tiered: you are first a citizen of a commune, then of your canton, then of the Swiss confederation. While your “place of origin” is little more than trivia for people who have “always” been Swiss as you do not need to be living there or born there to be “from” there, candidates for naturalization apply for citizenship from their place of residence, which becomes their place of origin. As a candidate for naturalization later in the year, I can only apply in the commune where i currently reside. And if they reject me, I need to wait 3–5 years to apply somewhere else.
For these young ladies from Basel, Switzerland is their home as much as it is anyone else’s. Muslim “Handshakegate” was only a few months ago as well, and the family in this case also had their naturalization applications stopped. And it isn’t just Muslims who come under fire for “lack of integration.” in the canton of Aargau, Nancy Holten was denied naturalization (although this process is currently under appeal), despite speaking perfect German and living here for over twenty years and having Swiss children, because she is a vegetarian who is against circuses, church bells, and cow bells, with her opposition to cow bells being that for which she is the most famous. Apparently not liking cow bells or church bells is also a sign of lack of integration.
I guess i can be happy because at least it isn’t “just” Muslims, but i am not. I wonder too: will they think i am too Muslim or too vegetarian to be Swiss? I wasn’t even born in my commune, like these girls likely were, and the thought of being rejected is scary to me when this place has been my home for over a decade.