When I was young, I was trained by my parents in the etiquette of the handshake, which went something like this: A man extends his hand when he meets another man for the first time, and the other man is expected to shake it. The failure to extend one’s hand, or to shake an extended hand, is considered hostile and insulting.
A man does not extend his hand to a woman, but waits to see if she extends hers. If so, he shakes it. A woman’s failure to extend her hand is not necessarily an indication of hostility, but may in certain circumstances be an expression of coolness or displeasure on the part of the woman, depending on the context.
Such were the rules fifty-odd years ago in the USA (and possibly the rest of the Anglosphere). The rules in Germany and Switzerland are different, however: a woman is usually expected to shake hands in the same circumstances that a man would, and in some cases (e.g. with doctors and teachers), the handshake is considered mandatory.
Rules are important to Germans, so a Muslim man’s refusal to shake a German woman’s hand can cause serious problems. Below is video report on the latest such incident. Many thanks to Egri Nök for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:
The following report from Junge Freiheit about the same incident was also translated by Egri Nök:
Imam refuses handshake and lodges complaint against teacher
BERLIN. A Muslim father refused to shake hands with a female teacher in the Pankow district of Berlin. The educator from the private Platanus School accused the man of lack of respect and misogyny, and ended the conversation. The father, who had been at the school for a discussion about his son, lodged a criminal complaint against the teacher, RBB (public radio) reported.
Prior to the conflict pupils had been roughhousing, for which the imam’s son had received a written warning. The boy’s father, Imam Kerim Ucar, a devout Shiite from Eastern Turkey, after several academic talks between the school and the mother, had according to the broadcaster been invited to the school, too.
Hand on the heart
Even as he entered the conference room, Ucar made it clear that for religious reasons he could not shake a woman’s hand. According to the couple, the teacher asked the imam four times to offer his hand. The gesture was a German custom and a vital affirmation of respect, she explained.
Ucar rejected the request politely but firmly, and put his hand on his heart, which in his religion is the highest possible testimony of respect for a woman. Subsequently the teacher allegedly became loud, and ended the talk.
School contract cancelled
The school declined to comment on the incident, but intends to remain in dialogue with the family. The parents cancelled the schooling contract, retained a lawyer, and lodged a criminal complaint for insult and violation of the dignity of religion.
This past spring, a similar case in Switzerland caused worldwide headlines. Teachers in the Swiss canton Baselland can now insist that Muslim students must shake hands, the educational administration of the canton decided. Despite freedom of religion, schools may “demand a handshake and use the sanction options of the educational law,” the authority stated. The equality of man and woman, and integration, were more important than the pupils’ freedom of religion.
|00:00||The situation that happened in the school, between a|
|00:04||father of a pupil, and the teacher, or school director,|
|00:09||is a power play, because the woman assumes|
|00:14||that the person is misogynistic,|
|00:17||and the man possibly assumes|
|00:21||that the woman does not respect his religion. And both sides insist on being right.|
|00:27||So it is unmistakably a power play.|
|00:32||Because in the school, religion should have no place,|
|00:36||and there is no law on the books that a person must greet the teacher or anyone else with a handshake.|
|00:43||Both Sunnis as well as Shiites, the conservatives,|
|00:47||refuse, absolutely do not want to do this, because|
|00:51||a woman means sin, and they want to remain pure.|
|00:56||This is a power play about piety.|
|01:00||But those are very old ideas, that basically|
|01:04||do not fit into our times anymore, because the prophet did not live in Germany.|
|01:09||And God is not so primitive that he,|
|01:13||in the end, would judge people by whether they extended a hand or not.|
|01:20||This is not my own opinion; many Islamic theologians say so, too.