Sweden Says Muslim Women Can’t Be Fired For Refusing To Shake Hands

Sweden Says Muslim Women Can’t Be Fired For Refusing To Shake Hands


A Muslim woman just won over $4,000 in a Swedish court after it ruled a company discriminated against her because she refused to shake a man’s hand.

But the labor court ruled that the company couldn’t force a Muslim employee to shake hands as a greeting if it compromised their religious beliefs, as long as the employee greeted men and women the same way.

Farah Alhajeh was allegedly shown the door after she declined to shake an interviewer’s hand because of her religious beliefs, the New York Times reported. The company she was supposed to be interviewing for, Semantix, which provides language services, argued that Swedish law requires all its employees to treat men and women equally.

But the labor court ruled that the company couldn’t force a Muslim employee to shake hands as a greeting if it compromised their religious beliefs, as long as the employee greeted men and women the same way.

Many Muslims believe that men and women who aren’t related shouldn’t touch each other —  a belief they share with many Orthodox Jews. This means that they don’t hug, kiss, or shake hands with members of the opposite sex.

This isn’t the first time Muslims in Europe have faced pushback for declining a handshake, and they usually are not as successful as Farah.

Just this week, a Muslim couple in Switzerland were denied Swiss citizenship after it was discovered they did not shake hands with the opposite sex, The Guardian reported, something they said showed they did not respect gender equality.

An Algerian woman was also denied French citizenship, a decision that was reinforced by an administrative court earlier this year, after she refused to shake hands with male government officials at her ceremony.  

In that case, French officials argued that her refusal was proof she wasn’t assimilated.

The Swedish ruling means there is at least one more country where women (and men) have a say in who touches them.



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