Switzerland denies Muslim couple citizenship for refusing handshake with opposite gender

By @chelean on
A Muslim couple has been denied Swiss citizenship after they refused to shake hands with people of the opposite sex.
A Muslim couple has been denied Swiss citizenship after they refused to shake hands with people of the opposite sex. Creative Commons

Switzerland has denied a Muslim couple citizenship after they refused to shake hands with the opposite sex. The Swiss city of Lausanne blocked the couple’s citizenship application on Friday, saying their lack of respect for gender equality was the deciding factor.

Mayor Gregoire Junod told AFP that the municipality refused to grant the couple citizenship because they missed the mark on integration. A municipal commission had question them several months ago to determine if they met the criteria. However, they struggled to answer questions asked by the members of the opposite sex.

Junod also said they “did not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.” While freedom of belief and religion is enshrined in the laws of the Canton of Vaud, which encompasses the city, Junod said “religious practice does not fall outside the law.” The couple were not asked about their religion, according to authorities, though their Islam belief was apparent.

Vice-mayor Pierre-Antoine Hildbrand was on the three-member commission that questioned the couple. He said they were not rejected because of their religion, but for their lack of respect for gender equality.

“The constitution and equality between men and women prevails over bigotry,” he said.

The couple may appeal the decision within 30 days.

It is not the first time a Muslim has been denied because they refused handshake with other people of the other sex.

In Sweden last week, Farah Alhajeh, 24, was rejected from a job because she refused to shake the male interviewer’s hand. She was vying for a role of an interpreter. Instead of shaking the hand of the male interviewer, she greeted him by placing a hand over her heart. She was told the interview was immediately over and instructed to leave.

She reported the company to Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman, and her case was referred to court. She was ultimately awarded £3,420 (AU$5,965) in compensation as she won the case in court.

Although handshakes are traditional and expected in Europe, Alhajeh’s decision not to shake hands was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.