Muslim man denied German citizenship for refusing to shake woman’s hand

A Muslim man who passed the German naturalisation test but refused to shake hands with a female official has been denied citizenship.

The Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg (VGH) ruled on Friday that someone who rejects a handshake due to a “fundamentalist conception of culture and values” because they see women as “a danger of sexual temptation” was thereby rejecting “integration into German living conditions.”

The 40-year-old Lebanese doctor, who came to Germany in 2002, said he refused to shake women’s hands for religious reasons.

He studied medicine in Germany and now works as a senior physician in a clinic. He applied for citizenship through naturalisation in 2012, for which he signed a declaration of loyalty to the German constitution and against extremism. He passed the naturalisation test with the best possible score.

Nevertheless, he was not granted citizenship because he refused to shake hands with the responsible official when the naturalisation certificate was handed over in 2015. The woman therefore withheld the certificate and rejected the application.

The VGH described a handshake as a common nonverbal greeting and farewell ritual, which is independent of the sex of the involved parties, adding that the practice goes back centuries.

The judge found that the handshake also has a legal meaning, in that it symbolises the conclusion of a contract.

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The handshake is therefore “deeply rooted in social, cultural and legal life, which shapes the way we live together,” the judge said.

The court found that anyone who refuses to shake hands on gender-specific grounds is in breach of the equality enshrined in the German constitution.

In addition, the man’s refusal in this case had the effect of lending validity to a “Salafist perspective” on the social ramifications of relations between men and women.

The handshake ruling was also handed down despite health officials cautioning against handshaking right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. The judge said he was convinced that the practice would survive the pandemic.

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