A Muslim man who refused to shake hand with a woman for religious reasons was denied German citizenship on Friday. In its ruling, a German court found that refusing a handshake with opposite gender violated the equality enshrined in the German constitution.

The unidentified 40-year-old Lebanese doctor has been in Germany since 2002 and studied medicine in the country. He worked as a senior physician at a clinic, according to Deutsche Welle. He applied for German citizenship through naturalization in 2012 and scored well in the test. He also signed a declaration of loyalty to the German constitution and denouncing extremism.

But he declined to shake hands with the female official who gave him his naturalization certificate in 2015. Consequently, she withheld the certificate rejecting his application. The man legally challenged the decision and said that he refused the handshake because he promised his wife he would not shake hands with another woman.

Danger of sexual temptation

On Friday, the Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg (VGH) found that whoever refused to shake hands with a woman because they viewed them as "danger of sexual temptation" and because of a "fundamentalist conception of culture and values" thus declined the "integration into German living conditions," Deutsche Welle reported. The court stated that a handshake signified a contract's conclusion, thus carrying a legal meaning to it, the court found.

The court also said that shaking hands was a centuries-old practice of nonverbal greeting and farewell. Because of this, the handshake was "deeply rooted in social, cultural and legal life, which shapes the way we live together," a judge noted.

Handshake
A representational picture of a woman and man shaking hands. Flickr/https://www.semtrio.com

The VGH also observed that by refusing to shake hands on gender-specific grounds, the man validated the "Salafist perspective" that claims to have social consequences due to relations between women and men. The man told the court that he would uphold the equality between men and women and also declared that he would not shake hands with men.

However, the court was unconvinced and said it was only a tactical move and it did not make a difference if he declined to shake hands with men too. The judge also noted that the man's refusal to shake hands with a woman would continue even after the coronavirus pandemic that led to follow social distancing rules worldwide. The man could appeal the decision to the Federal Administrative Court because of the fundamental implication of the case.

Practicing Muslims have found it difficult to integrate socially in European countries. In 2016, regional education officials in Switzerland ruled that students cannot decline to handshake with a teacher because of their faith. The ruling came after two Muslims students refused to shake a female teacher's hands saying that their faith did not allow them having physical contact with the opposite sex members.

In 2018, Denmark passed legislation that made shaking hands with officials mandatory during naturalization ceremonies.