Muslins in EuropeMan Denied German Citizenship for Refusing to Shake Woman's Hand

Published 19 October 2020

The application of a Lebanese doctor for German citizenship was denied after he refused to shake a woman’s hand. The doctor passed the German naturalization test, but refused to shake hands with the official – a woman — who handed him his citizenship certificate. The court ruled that a refusal to shake a woman’s hand indicates that the man rejected “integration into German living conditions.”

A German court ruled on Friday that a Muslim man who refused to shake the hand of a woman should not receive German citizenship. The 40-year-old Lebanese doctor, who came to Germany in 2002, told the court that he refuses to shake women’s hands for religious reasons.

The Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg (VGH) ruled that an individual who refuses to shake the hand of a woman owing to a “fundamentalist conception of culture and values” — because they see women as “a danger of sexual temptation” – was, in effect, rejecting “integration into German living conditions.”

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

But when, in 2015, an official – a woman — tried to hand him the naturalization certificate granting him citizenship, he refused to shake hands with her. The official withheld the certificate and rejected the application.

He appealed to the Stuttgart Administrative Court, arguing that he had promised his wife not to shake hands with another woman. His appeal of the ruling was unsuccessful, so his lawyers took his case to the VGH. Following its decision Friday, the court said that the man can appeal to the Federal Administrative Court due to the fundamental significance of the case.

The VGH, in its ruling, described a handshake as a common nonverbal greeting and farewell ritual, which are 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 symbolizes the conclusion of a contract.

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 court said, 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 court said that it made no difference that the man has now declared he will not shake hands with men either.

The man claimed he wanted to affirm the equality of men and women, but the court found that this was merely a tactical move.

The judge noted that he was handing down the handshake ruling 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.