Muslim woman leaves job after being told she has to shake hands with male colleagues

Fardous El-Sakka (left)

A Muslim woman in Sweden has left her teaching job after being told she must shake hands with male colleagues.

Fardous El-Sakka had been working as a supply teacher for Kunskapsskolan, a group of independent schools in Helsingborg, since August this year.

The 20-year-old had chosen not to shake hands with her male colleagues and instead preferred to put her hand on her heart and bow as a greeting.

But when one of her male colleagues took offence, Ms Sakka was ordered to go to a meeting with the principal and told she must abide to the school’s “core values” if she wanted to remain working there.

Helsingborg Kunskapsskolan principal Lidijia Münchmeyer told Swedish newspaper Expressen that the man in question felt “tremendously discriminated against”.

She said: “The school doesn’t differentiate between people or treat them differently. That’s what we advocate from our students, so the staff also have to do that.”

But Ms Sakka, who stopped working at the school immediately, drew the case to the attention of the Equality Ombudsman.

As a member of the Unionen teaching union, her case was then referred to them instead.

Ms Sakka told The Local it was the first time anyone had ever objected to her not shaking their hand and said she did not think she would be able to return.

She said: “It’s a special school for me because I was a student there. But I don’t think I can see a way back there now.”

In a statement reported by The Local, Ms Münchmeyer stressed that the school did not dismiss Ms Sakka and that she “chose to leave after I explained what the school’s core values are”.

“I would also like to carefully point out that the issue was not her religious beliefs, but rather it is about choosing to treat men and women differently by shaking the hands of women but not men”, she added.

 

The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, even commented in the debate saying that in Sweden, “you shake hands with both women and men”.

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