Court upholds denying permit to Islamic kindergarten

The Imam Centre in Volketswil, canton Zurich was the planned site of a kindergarten that was denied its operating permit by Switzerland's highest court Keystone

Switzerland’s highest court has ruled that canton Zurich correctly denied an Islamic society’s request to open a special kindergarten because the proposed school did not meet requirements for a religiously affiliated institution. 

In its ruling, the Federal Court supported the July 2015 verdict of a canton Zurich court, which had denied the “al Huda” Islamic foundation an operating permit for its kindergarten on the grounds that the teaching of religious and secular content would not be properly separated. The school planned to teach students that religious knowledge forms the basis of everything later learned and experienced, which the court ruled went beyond the amount of religious focus allowed in private schools. 

The Federal Court also echoed the cantonal court’s ruling that the 25% of staff capacity dedicated to teaching Arabic and the Koran is too high to achieve the necessary educational aims at the school, and that the people who would be teaching those subjects do not have the necessary qualifications. 

Finally, the Federal Court found that the concept for the kindergarten was missing the necessary commitment to humanistic and democratic values, which is enshrined in Switzerland’s education law. 

On the question of whether a permit denial violated the al Huda association’s rights to freedom of speech and equal treatment under the law, the court responded that operating a private school does not fall under the category of free speech and that the association was treated fairly under the existing law. 

However, the court did say it would investigate al Huda’s question as to whether 17 Jewish and Christian kindergartens were correctly issued permits under the same terms. 

The al Huda association first filed for the operating permit for its kindergarten in 2013. It was denied, as were the subsequent appeals and complaints submitted by the association.

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