Muslim teacher fired for violating Geneva laws

swissinfo, Dec. 19, 2002
http://www.swissinfo.org/
swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin

The canton of Geneva has fired teacher, Hani Ramadan, a Muslim cleric, for his controversial remarks published in the French newspaper, “Le Monde”.

Geneva has strict laws separating church and state which restrict cantonal employees’ freedom of expression.

Ramadan has defended his remarks and will lodge an appeal at the Swiss federal court (Keystone)
The canton of Geneva has fired teacher, Hani Ramadan, a Muslim cleric, for his controversial remarks published in the French newspaper, “Le Monde”.

Geneva has strict laws separating church and state which restrict cantonal employees’ freedom of expression.

Ramadan told swissinfo he would be appealing against the ruling.

Geneva officials said their decision to fire Ramadan was based on the “anti-democratic” nature of his remarks.

In the article, which was published in September, Ramadan defended death by stoning for adultery as set out in Islamic Sharia law. He also said that believers were protected from being infected with Aids. Unlike non-believers and sinners, they could only be infected Islamic Centre of Geneva. An investigation into the affair commissioned by the Geneva authorities found that his role as a religious representative was incompatible with his status as a teacher in a state school.

Church and state

Geneva, which is a Protestant canton, forbids any overlap between religious and secular authorities.

The investigation – which was conducted by the former public prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa – also found that, as a state employee, Ramadan had violated his obligation to refrain from airing controversial views.

Bertossa wrote in his report that Ramadan expressed “opinions clearly incompatible with the values that the public school must defend”.

Cantonal regulations stipulate that “state employees must remain non-religious or secular.”

An exception, however, is made for teaching staff at Swiss universities who have greater freedom to express their personal beliefs.

Controversial remarks

The article caused a public outcry. The Commission Against Racism publicly reprimanded Ramadan, saying he had damaged the image of the Muslim community in Switzerland.

One month later, cantonal authorities suspended him from his post as a French teacher in a state school.

This is not the first time that Ramadan has got on the wrong side of Geneva cantonal law.

He previously received two warnings for publicly voicing his beliefs. On one occasion, he participated in a demonstration outside the United Nations in Geneva in support of Palestinians.

Legal challenge

Ramadan told swissinfo that he would challenge Geneva’s ruling. He said he would lodge an appeal at Switzerland’s federal court, which is located in Lausanne.

In an interview published in Thursday’s edition of “Le Nouvelliste” newspaper, he rejected the point made in Bertossa’s report that he is a religious figure. In his 20 years as an employee of the canton, Ramadan said he had never encountered problems expressing his views.

Ramadan continues to stand by the content of the “Le Monde” article.

“Muslims living in Europe have the right…to bear witness to their faith and their convictions,” he said in another newspaper article, “even if it offends those who judge them before understanding them.”

“I will pursue all legal means to assert my rights,” he told swissinfo on Thursday.

Ramadan is a well-known thinker in the Muslim world and has published several articles on Islamic life.

Misunderstood

Ramadan said the international community “has an unfortunate habit of confusing certain acts of resistance with barbarism”.

But leaders in Switzerland’s Islamic community are concerned by the content of the article written by Ramadan.

Taner Hatipogliu, deputy head of the society of Islamic organisations in Zurich, said that the furore surrounding Ramadan had served to take Switzerland’s Muslim community “ten steps back”.

“This type of publicity harms all the activities undertaken in the area of integration [into Swiss society],” Hatipogliu told swissinfo.

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