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Dutch Muslim wins right to refuse handshake

A Dutch school was wrong to bar a Muslim woman from its classes for refusing to shake hands with men, the Commission for Equal Treatment found on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

A Dutch school was wrong to bar a Muslim woman from its classes for refusing to shake hands with men, the Commission for Equal Treatment found on Monday.

The adult education center in the Dutch central town of Amersfoort rejected the woman’s application to study to become an education assistant, saying handshaking was part of daily education.

The woman refused to shake hands with men because she said Islam forbids physical contact with men above the age of 12, the government-funded commission said in a statement.

It concluded that handshaking at schools was not necessary as there were other ways of greeting men.

“Every school has the duty to be free of discrimination and treat men and women equally. This duty extends to individual students who refuse physical contact on religious grounds,” it said.

The opposition of some Muslims toward men and women shaking hands hit the headlines recently when an imam refused to shake hands with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk at a public event.

The Netherlands is home to 1 million Muslims who are mostly of Turkish or Moroccan descent and make up almost 6 percent of the population.

Social and religious tensions have escalated in the country in recent years, exacerbated by the murder of director Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan militant in 2004 after he made a film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women.