The 36-year-old man known as Bardul D is father to five daughters. He arrived from Macedonia some twenty years ago, met his wife and decided to settle in Basel, newspaper Blick reports.
“It was only in Switzerland that we decided we wanted to live according to a stricter understanding of Islam,” he told the website.
For the past three years, Bardul has refused to allow his daughter, Hafsa, now 9 years old, to join in with the mixed swimming classes. He has also arranged for his eldest two daughters to receive private lessons.
“I want to bring them up so that they do not lose their shame,” he said.
Due to a change in the law, it is no longer acceptable for children not to participate in swimming lessons on religious grounds. Consequently, the appeal court found recently that the penalty imposed on Bardul for preventing his daughters from joining in should stand.
But Bardul insists he will not let his daughters go swimming with boys.
“I’ve heard people say that we should leave if we don’t fit in in Switzerland,” the father of five told Blick. “But I like it here and I do fit in.”
“My children are well educated and do very well in school. The swimming lessons have nothing to do with integration.”
The fine increased in November 2011 to 2,500 francs ($2,389). Luckily for Bardul, he has people like 59-year-old one-time Protestant minister Johannes Czwalina to help out with the costs.
Czwalina has already contributed some 20,000 francs ($21,912) for fines and court costs. As a result, he has received anonymous death threats.
“I know that I am following a lonely path,” Czwalina said. “But for me it’s about the sanctity of freedom of conscience that Muslims also should be able to enjoy.”
Bardul is the only person in the canton of Basel-Landschaft refusing to let his daughters swim. The school board is stumped by his continual refusal, and does not know what steps to take next.
“It is unclear to us,” the school board’s president, Edith Lüdin told Blick. “This is a grey area.”
In Basel City, some 11 Muslim children were removed from swimming classes between 2010 and 2011. While most families paid the fines, the girls were still not permitted to swim with their classmates.