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Norwegian Mosque Apologises to Crown Prince after Women Refused Handshake

Three Muslim women politely declined a handshake with Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon who visited the Al-Noor Islamic Center last week to show support after shooting attack on the mosque, the incident which triggered debates on social media, Royal Central reported.

“We did not want the Crown Prince to end up in that situation, but we did not know that the three women would not handshake,” Waheed Ahmed, information officer at the Al-Noor mosque, told NRK.

“We, therefore, apologize to the Crown Prince that this happened.”

The Bærum mosque, or the Al-Noor Islamic Center, was targeted in a shooting on August 10, in Bærum, Norway, about 20 km west of the capital city of Oslo.

One person was injured in the shooting which was described as one attack in a recent “resurgence of white supremacy”.

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Ahmed said that the management of the mosque discussed the visit in a meeting with the staff of the Royal Court the day before the visit, going through possible scenarios.

“Hand greetings were not in our minds and therefore did not become a topic that was raised. Had we known in advance that the women would not handshake, we would have informed the Crown Prince about it, but it was completely unknown to us that they would not,” he said.

Handshake in Islam

Shaking hands is one of those issues one should decide based on one’s conscience and the circumstances. It is best for us to avoid shaking hands with members of the opposite sex in case there are any moral qualms about it. It is best that we do what our conscience tells us; we can always explain our position later.

If, however, you are okay with it, and there is nothing to suggest a source of temptation, then you may just get over with it, especially in a society or group where it is a custom.

The latter would be the case if we are dealing with societies where shaking hands with everyone, regardless of male and female differences, is customary.

It is in the last mentioned case that even some of the jurists of the early times considered shaking hands with females as permissible, provided there is no temptation factor involved. Imam Ibrahim An-Nakh`i was of this view, as is reported from him.

Positive Visit

Despite triggering debates on social media, the Royal Court said the Crown Prince’s visit was warm and respectful.

“The Crown Prince experienced the visit to the Al-Noor mosque after the terror attack as strong, and that the meeting with all the participants was warm and respectful,” a statement read.

“Together with the representatives of the Islamic Council of Norway and the Al-Noor mosque, they talked about how we can together build a society where everyone can feel safe and free”.

Islam is a minority religion in Norway. It is the second largest religion after Christianity. Government statistics from the CIA registered 121,095 members of Islamic congregations in Norway, roughly 2.3% of the population, according to a 2011 registration.

The Pew Research Center estimated that 3.7% of Norwegians were Muslim in 2010 and 5.7% in 2016. About 55% of the Muslim community live in the counties of Oslo and Akershus.

Estimates about Muslims in Norway varied between 120,000 in 2005 and 163,000 in 2009. The vast majority of the community has an immigrant background, with Norwegians of Pakistani descent being the most visible and well-known group.