A German court has upheld a ruling that a Muslim doctor should not be granted the country’s citizenship after he refused to shake hand with the woman presenting him his naturalisation certificate during his citizenship ceremony.
The Baden-Württemberg’s administrative court, while hearing the case, ruled that the Muslim doctor was rightly denied citizenship because his refusal to shake hand was a proof that he viewed women as “a threat of seduction”.
The judge furthered that the German constitution enshrines sexual equality and only those applicants who are able to demonstrate that they can live according to the values set out in the German constitution can be entitled to the German citizenship.
A handshake “has a long tradition of signalling to greet or saying farewell that exists irrespective of social status or sex”, the ruling stated. Furthering that shaking hands “holds special importance” as it has a legal bearing and also symbolizes the conclusion of a contract, the judge felt that anyone who refuses to shake hands on gender-specific grounds is in violation of the equality. It described the doctor’s actions as “fundamentalist” and reflective of “a Salafist worldview”.
Defending his actions the 40-year-old Muslim doctor said that he had made a promise to his wife never to touch another woman. He also said that he would never shake hand with anyone in the future, be it a male or a female. Unimpressed by the argument presented by the Muslim doctor in his defence, the judge said that the man would surely have to use the gesture in the future in order to carry out important societal functions. The court saw his concession on not shaking anyone’s hand as a “purely tactical move” and ruled that the doctor was rightly denied the citizenship of the country.
The incident occured in 2015, during a citizenship ceremony that was supposed to be a formality after the doctor had obtained the highest possible score in his citizenship test- an exam that probes how well immigrants understand German history and its democratic values.
When the female bureaucrat had offered her hand and he declined to shake it, she had refused to hand over his certificate to him.
According to reports, the doctor is now left with option to dispute the ruling at the federal level, which would be his last chance to have the decision overturned.
This is, however, not the first case. A series of legal cases across Europe in the past have questioned whether those who refuse to shake hands with people of the opposite sex for religious reasons are guilty of discrimination. In 2018, a Muslim couple had been denied Swiss citizenship after refusing, for religious reasons, to shake hands with people of the opposite sex during their interview. While refusing to grant them Swiss citizenship, officials had cited a lack of respect for gender equality as the reason for their decision.