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Court backs Swiss in case of Muslim girls attending swimming class

A court appeal by a couple who were fined in Switzerland for keeping their daughters out of mandatory mixed-gender school swimming lessons for reasons linked to their Muslim faith has been rejected.

The European Court of Human Rights decision upholds a Swiss federal court ruling that education officials had not violated the Turkish-born family's rights of freedom of conscience and religion in the case in Basel dating back to 2008.

In a summary of the ruling announced on Tuesday, the European court based in Strasbourg acknowledged "interference" in freedom of religion - but that public school had a "special role" in integration, particularly of children of foreign origin.

Such issues of compulsory public education and religious belief have prompted similar cases in neighbouring Germany and Liechtenstein in recent years.

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