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To Become Citizens, Denmark Requires Muslims to Shake Hands

  • But Denmark is not alone on this. Switzerland and France have recently cited “lack of assimilation” in rejecting citizenship to foreigners who refuse to shake hands with officials.

COPENHAGEN – In a move seen as deliberately targeting religiously conservative Muslims, Denmark has passed a law stating individuals who take citizenship tests must shake hands during ceremonies.

“It’s against my ideology and conviction to have to force other people to have body contact,” Thomas Andresen, the mayor of Aabenraa, near the border with Germany, told the New York Times.

The new law, which will take effect on Jan. 1, was supported by Martin Henriksen, a lawmaker who has been critical of Islam and is the right-wing Danish People’s Party’s spokesman on immigration

“If you arrive in Denmark, where it’s custom to shake hands when you greet if you don’t do it it’s disrespectful,” Henriksen said.

“If one can’t do something that simple and straightforward, there’s no reason to become a Danish citizen.”

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However, the law has prompted strong reactions from some of the mayors, saying that the Danish Parliament, which approved the measure, has artificially elevated a social custom to a national value.

“My conscience doesn’t allow me to report people on this basis so they won’t become Danish citizens,” Ole Bjorstorp, the mayor of Ishoj, a suburb of Copenhagen, for 17 years, said.

“It’s a moral and ethical issue.”

The law is not the first in Denmark to target immigrants and asylum seekers, especially Muslims.

This summer, the Parliament prohibited the wearing of face veils in public, although researchers say only about 200 Muslim women follow the practice in Denmark.

In 2015, the country sharply cut social programs for asylum seekers, and a law passed in 2016 allows the authorities to confiscate migrants’ valuables to help cover the cost of their stays in Denmark.

It is not the first time for the handshake to stir debates in Europe.

In August 2018, a Swedish court ruled that a Muslim woman who was denied a job after refusing a handshake with a male employer was discriminated against, ordering the company to pay compensation.

Earlier in April, an Algerian Muslim woman who refused to shake hands with officials during her citizenship ceremony was denied the French citizenship.

Islam intends to build a community based on chastity, modesty, and bashfulness. Therefore, Islamic teachings have laid restrictions on the interaction between marriageable men and women to block all ways to evil practices. Islam takes prohibitive measures and does not wait for evil to take place.

Even if there is no specific textual indication to the prohibition of shaking hands between non-mahram men and women, one will definitely infer that such practice is prohibited in Islam. If gazing at a woman is prohibited, touching a part of her body can never be permissible.

As a practical solution for any situation Muslims may face, some scholars said one can shake hand with a strange man who does not know your norm as long as there is no temptation.