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Muslim handshake exemption sparks uproar in Switzerland

Muslim handshake exemption sparks uproar in Switzerland

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, above, is among a number of politicians and educators who have slammed a decision by a secondary school to exempt Muslims pupils from shaking hands with female teachers.

The decision, the BBC reports, came after the school granted special dispensation to two boys, aged 14 and 15, who have lived in Switzerland for several years.

The boys had told the school in the small, northern town of Therwil it was against their faith to touch a woman outside their family.

Sommaruga said shaking hands was part of Swiss culture and daily life and that such dispensation for children was not her idea of integration.

A local teachers’ union said the exemption discriminated against women.

The case has propelled Therwil, a town of 10,000 people in the Basel-Country canton, to the centre of a national debate about Swiss identity. A similar case has been reported elsewhere in the region.

Christian Amsler, head of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, suggested that the school may have tried to get an “unpleasant problem out of the way” but had simply made a mistake.

Felix Mueri, the head of the Swiss parliament’s Education Commission and a member of the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party, said the handshake was a gesture of respect.

Today’s it’s the handshake; and what will it be tomorrow?

Even Muslim groups have disagreed with the school’s response.

There was no reference in the Koran justifying a refusal to shake a woman teacher’s hand, said the Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations. Saida Keller-Messahli of the Forum for Progressive Islam urged the Swiss not to give in to extremist demands.

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However the smaller Islamic Central Council of Switzerland said that a handshake between men and women was prohibited. spokesman Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi, above, said:

After the sex attacks in Cologne (on New Year’s Eve), they asked Muslims to keep their distance from women; now they demand they get closer to them.

The beleaguered school has tried to find a compromise, by deciding that the two pupils should not greet either men or women with a handshake.

Headteacher Juerg Lauener said the school had no reason to adjust its policy, unless the local authorities ruled against its decision.

Local education officials said the school had taken a pragmatic approach, but agreed it was not a permanent solution as rules should be the same for all pupils.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

47 responses to “Muslim handshake exemption sparks uproar in Switzerland”

  1. Barty says:

    Muslims will not … absolutely will not do anything to fit in with culture of their host countries.They are bent on the islamification of Europe by clicking the ratchet at every little opportunity. Shaking hands should be made compulsory for the brattish muslim kids.

    Mind you I would not shake hands with Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi even if I was wearing rubber gloves. Wouldn’t want to be in the same room actually.

    Whats the difference between male islamic pupils not shaking hands with female teachers and me not wanting to be anywhere near islamic loons?

  2. Club Secretary says:

    Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi is a convert to islam.

    His Wikipedia entry is well worth a read (after translation)

  3. barriejohn says:

    After the sex attacks in Cologne (on New Year’s Eve), they asked Muslims to keep their distance from women; now they demand they get closer to them.

    So he can’t see the difference between innocent social contact and sexual assault, then? No wonder Muslim women feel safer in burkas!

    And The Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations and The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland; where are the Monty Python team when you really need them?

  4. barriejohn says:

    Club Secretary: I couldn’t get that page translated, but he does talk a load of bollocks, and appears, if you can sort out all the seemingly meaningless verbiage, to advocate a parallel judicial system for Muslims in Europe.

    http://www.izrs.ch/en/may-the-sharia-be-applied-in-europe-a-systems-theoretic-approach*.html

  5. Raul Miller says:

    F^ck off, we’re not the bloody Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations and The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland; we’re the Swiss Central Council of Islamic Organisations and The Islamic Federation of Switzerland. The Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations and The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland is a bunch of wankers.

  6. Trevor blake says:

    It takes a Muslim to excuse sexual assault by comparing it to a child shaking his teacher’s hand. Islam preserves and promotes the very worse in humanity.

    I expressly do not advocate killing even one Muslim, or some Muslims, or all Muslims. Killing is what Muslims do, not me. But should they be unable to live in peace in non-Muslim nations, let them with all speed go out of them.

    All religion is foolish and foul but Islam is the worst among them.

  7. Ivan says:

    For anyone who missed it, here is a link to BBC Radio 4’s excellent investigation, broadcast this morning, into the Muslim Diobandi sect which operates 40% of the mosques in the UK:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gqr66

    Arresting stuff to say the least and 28 minutes listening to it is time well spent. Part two is broadcast next Tuesday at 0900.

  8. L.Long says:

    In a way I agree with the muslins! I know they are doing this for bigotry against women because they are so disgusting!! But I do not hand shake at all as this is the best way to spread disease! Anyone who has watched various science programs on the BBC has seen how germs are spread thru a pub by hand contact. I think handshaking which has no real purpose should be replaced by a bow.

  9. Rob Andrews says:

    Even though the article says that, “shaking hands is part of Swiss culture”, was it mandatory before. I mean if some group wants exemption. Why do they need a formal exemption?

    And when I was at school we never shook hands with any teacher. That would spoil the formal relationship with them. Shaking hands must be like saying hello here.

    But they’re just starting a fire again.

  10. Club Secretary says:

    barriejohn says:
    Tue 5 Apr at 1:15 pm

    Club Secretary: I couldn’t get that page translated

    Try this

    https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qaasim_Illi&prev=search

  11. David Anderson says:

    L. Long: I shake hands with friends and neighbours and kiss women on the cheeks every day. So far , I have managed to stay alive.

  12. John says:

    Ivan is right: the BBC Radio 4 programme on Deobandism is most interesting.
    It is mentioned in the programme – with additional details on Wiki[edia – that ‘The movement was inspired by the spirit of scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703–1762),[3][4] and was founded in 1867 in the wake of a failed revolt against British rule a decade earlier.[5] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deobandi.
    That was the Sepoy mutiny, when islamists circulated false rumours that rifle cartridges were greased with pig fat. They were liars then and they remain liars now – to their own people and everyone.
    According to a 2007 investigation by The Times, about 600 of Britain’s nearly 1,500 mosques were under the control of “a hardline sect”, whose leading preacher loathed Western values, called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah and preached contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus. The same investigative report further said that 17 of the country’s 26 Islamic seminaries follow the ultra-conservative Deobandi teachings which had given birth to the Taliban. According to Times almost 80% of all domestically trained Ulema were being trained in these hardliner seminaries.[15]
    Colleagues: know your enemies.
    It’s a pity that the UK “powers-that-be” choose not to know this.
    And we wonder how and why young kids get radicalised?
    My amazement is that there are not more of them!

  13. L.Long says:

    Being lucky David does not change the evidence about germ spreading. The same science show also shows that kissing is mostly safer then hand touching. Also I’ve been around lots of people that cough and sneeze openly, so since I have been LUCKY we should not bother to cover when doing so???

  14. Edwin Salter says:

    The test to live here should be a residential weekend with assorted us that includes: swimsuits preferably on beach plus ice-cream; take-away meal (other) plus understanding a soap; outings to social dancing, also understanding a theatre show; sharing personal histories and discussing beliefs. Non-participation equals going elsewhere.

  15. Laura Roberts says:

    @Edwin: my guess is, even a panto would make some religious nutjobs’ heads explode.

  16. barriejohn says:

    Edwin & Laura: My Plymouth Brethren friends would be following the Pilgrim Fathers if they were forced to participate in “worldly entertainment”!

  17. RussellW says:

    More creeping Islamisation. Does anyone doubt that Islam is inimical to liberal democracy?

  18. 1859 says:

    It’s beginning to look like all religious fruitcakes need another planet. I watched the Birmingham debate (link given on one of the Freethinker threads) ‘Are religions harmful to women?’, and I was amazed that there could be such single-minded, ‘blind’ belief in thinking adults , who were so passionate about their particular superstitious construct that they seemed unable to step back and ask the obvious ‘Is this really true?’ Not one scintilla of skepticism was allowed to question their ideas. Creepy.

  19. Michael Glass says:

    What in the world is the fuss about? Some years ago I witnessed a similar incident where a Muslim girl could not shame hands with male teachers at prize giving. The issue was solved by arranging for her to receive her School Certificate from a female teacher.

    Or is it a greater problem when a male student won’t shake hands with a female teacher? If so, why?

  20. harrynutsak says:

    To shake hands with someone is a violation of health and safety protocols, as well as an invitation for one or both parties to maliciously have filthy hands when they offer them with the customary grin.

    If you prefer a minimum of personal sickness, you have to avoid the really stupid shit, like:
    –shaking hands with anyone
    –eating food prepared by people you don’t know and never see
    –living in areas downwind of anything nasty
    –drinking water that comes out of a faucet
    –drinking water where you don’t know where it really comes from or what is in it.
    –sharing anything with anyone, like a drink, a smoke, sex.

    After a while, you can go for years without a cold, cough, flu, food poisoning, STD, etc.

    But, no, here we’ve got some teacher that wants to catch some disease from this kid and is hurt that he is being taught at home to hate women already.

    Well, that’s just great. Just great stuff there. Yeah.

    They deserve each other.

  21. barriejohn says:

    Harrynutsac: I absolutely refuse to breathe in air that has already been inside anyone else’s lungs. You have no idea what bugs it might contain!

    Michael Glass: What is all the fuss about? Maybe treating women as inferior citizens, or even as unclean beings; or looking upon them as mere sex objects or “temptresses”, for a start. NO “special arrangements” for the religiously deluded – especially the bigots. Give them an inch and they’ll take the proverbial mile!

  22. harrynutsak says:

    @barriejohn: Okay, I will breathe air for you and pass you little packets of oxygen by bundling them upon large pack animals and then airlifting the pack animals in my personal jet, just as soon as I get one, so don’t hold your breath.
    🙂

  23. barriejohn says:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm……………….

  24. Brian Jordan says:

    @barriejohn & Barty
    Worried about rebreathing? When I was a lad we were told that each time we breathed, we took in a molecule of oxygen that had been exhaled in Julius Caesar’s last breath. Imagine then, how many molecules must have come from Mohammed’s recitation of the many verses of the Koran!

  25. barriejohn says:

    Brian Jordan: What a fatuous claim! It’s like the reincarnation nonsense. A girl at our grammar school had been Cleopatra in an earlier existence. They had always been famous people in those days, but they’re much wiser now, and claim to have been scullery maids or the like!

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-0_AaFjs1loE/TwHMi_gvEPI/AAAAAAAAH4s/x7xmJMF2q-E/s1600/believe_reincarnation_napoleon_1549945.jpg

  26. David Anderson says:

    L.Long: That was my point. There are germs everywhere, on what we touch, in what we eat and drink, in the air that we breath. To go through life in constant fear of this, to me, would be tantamount to paranoia. Of course there are things that we can do to minimize our exposure to infection, how we prepare nd cook our food, and personal hygiene.

    I’m not trying to suggest that you live your life in any other way than you do.

  27. Edwin Salter says:

    Perhaps we take each other’s point, barriejohn? (Can claim positive acquaintances among Open Brethren. Wouldn’t mind if the Closed – and all other separatists who own their children – did follow the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’, a nasty lot who sought not tolerance but enforcement.) The serious argument is that those who come at their own wish as permanent settlers must be fully tolerant of our norms.
    Re infection – some of us seem to be disturbed (and also have deficient immune systems due to lack of challenge). Caesar’s breath is a simple calculation and, Avogadro’s number being huge, few breaths lacks his participation.

  28. harrynutsak says:

    I take my oxygen with nitrogen. Sort of a habit. Like a nun.

  29. Vanity Unfair says:

    To Brian Jordan:
    I don’t remember being told that but as an example of re-cycling in a closed system, it is possible. The example I had was that a part of me had been a part of Julius Caesar. A recent reiteration of this is at http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2011/sep/27/where-were-my-atoms.
    Shakespeare had a similar thought: Hamlet Act 3:
    “Alexander dies: Alexander was buried:Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is of earth; of earth we make loam, and why of that loam whereto he was converted) might they not stop a beer-barrel?
    Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay
    Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.”
    (modernised spelling)
    So, sorry, barriejohn it’s not like reincarnation at all. Atoms exist; discarnate entities do not.

  30. Michael Glass says:

    Some of the arguments here seem to suggest that we all must shake hands whether we like it or not. Especially men and boys.

    If a female refuses to shake hands with a male for cultural or religious reasons, that’s no problem. However, if a male refuses to shake hands with a female or cultural or religious reasons, that’s taken to mean he’s showing disrespect to all women, is an oppressor, sees all women as temptresses and so on.

    There is a double standard going on here that says something about the rules in our society as well as the rules in other societies.

    In the mean time, I suggest having a look at the “hongi,”the traditional Maori greeting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongi

  31. RussellW says:

    Michael Glass,

    “..if a male refuses to shake hands with a female or cultural or religious reasons, that’s taken to mean he’s showing disrespect to all women, is an oppressor, sees all women as temptresses and so on.”

    Is the context different if the male is an adherent of a misogynistic and oppressive religion? Is there a line to be drawn? For example if a male refused to sit next to a woman on an airliner or required segregated seating for ‘cultural and religious reasons’ what would be your opinion?

    What’s the point of the hongi video?

  32. Daz says:

    Michael Glass

    If a man refuses to shake hands with anyone, regardless of gender, then no he is not showing disrespect for women in particular and his actions are thus not sexist. Rude, maybe, but not sexist. If a man refuses to shake hands with women but is perfectly happy to shake hands with men, then yes, his actions are, by definition, sexist. I fail to see what’s difficult about the concept that a belief system which discriminates between two groups is discriminatory.

    I also miss the point of the hongi video.

  33. Cali Ron says:

    I was once told that the water we drink is all recycled so at some point we are drinking someone else’s urine. Same idea as the air. I have better things to worry about, like will it rain if I wash my car.

  34. John says:

    I think there are two points which are relevant in this case.
    Historically, we have offered our hand as a sign of friendship and as an indication that by offering or extending our “sword” hand, we have no aggressive intent towards the other person. Refusing to shake hands is an indicator that the other person wishes us harm and may potentially want to attempt to injure or even possibly kill us. It is they who are being potentially aggressive towards us, not the other way round.
    Secondly, by rejecting our hand, the other party is also rejecting our culture and our values. In which case, why are they even in our culture and in our land? If they do not wish to abide by our societal norms, then – surely – it is at least arguable that they should leave and seek accommodation somewhere else where they are more suited to the prevailing cultural values and norms there, e.g. Pakistan, etc?

  35. Michael Glass says:

    What should happen if a man refuses to sit next to a woman for cultural or religious reasons? He should be the one who has to move to another seat. Interestingly, I was on an airline when some strict Muslims got in. A woman with a face covering went to get in the seat next to me and suddenly froze. Gestures were exchanged and one of the men of the party took the seat next to me.

    What do I think of that? I think it was weird, but interesting. I certainly saw no reason to take it personally. However, if I was required to change where I sat, I would certainly take offence. See http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2016/02/26/el-al-lawsuit/ This incident certainly crosses the line and the woman was quite right to take a stand.

    We now live in a multicultural and multi religious world. Sometimes this results in clashes. This means we have to cut some slack.

    *We might offer people alcoholic drinks or a dish containing meat, but it would be foolish to take offence if anyone, for whatever reason, requested a non-alcoholic refreshment or who declined to eat meat.

    *We might regard it as rude for a man to cover his head in some situations, but obviously we would have to give some slack for observant Sikhs.

    *In New Zealand, the traditional Maori greeting is the hongi, where people touch noses and foreheads. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A8hg1–Qbs If you don’t come from New Zealand, you might find this a bit awkward, but as you can see, William and Kate took it in their stride.

    When people come from a culture where it is taboo for unrelated men and women to touch each other, I think it’s reasonable to be flexible about customs like the handshake (or the hongi). Sure, people can take offence if someone refuses to shake their hand, but it’s best to pass over it, if possible.

    Yes, the culture of the other person may be sexist, but if we understand that this is a custom based in religion, it is better to pass over it. Also, it’s important to understand that many Muslims are quite happy to shake hands, even if the other person is of the other sex.

    It’s also going too far to assume that because someone refuses to shake our hand, they might potentially want to injure or kill us.

    Certainly, a line has to be drawn, but if possible, it should be drawn at a point where both parties can accept the result.

  36. John says:

    Michael Glass: It is said that the road to ruin is paved with good intentions – rather like yours. We are told we should accommodate other beliefs, however strange we may find them.
    However, there comes a point – rather like the one the world faced when Hitler and the Nazis gained power in 1933 – when all good persons must say “Enough – no more!”
    The same sentiment applies to religious extremists – and make no mistake; those who refuse to conform to our culture and our values are extremists.
    It is they – not us – who should get lost and go and live elsewhere.
    Yes, I am losing patience with all these crackpots – and why shouldn’t I?

  37. Daz says:

    Michael Glass

    “Yes, the culture of the other person may be sexist, but if we understand that this is a custom based in religion, it is better to pass over it.”

    Why? Why should it be okay to be sexist merely because the bigotry is couched in religious terms? If we were to change the subject from gender to skin-colour, would you be equally ready to turn a blind eye to the ensuing racist actions? If so, why?

  38. RussellW says:

    Daz,

    Agree completely. Again, where is the line to be drawn?

    Liberal democracies should not allow religious belief as an excuse for oppressive or discriminatory practices, religious freedom is a myth.

  39. Michael Glass says:

    Of course it is important to know where to draw the line. However, this is not always so simple.

    “Those who refuse to conform to our culture and our values are extremists. It is they – not us – who should get lost and go and live elsewhere.”

    Charles Bradlaugh did not conform to “our culture”. He refused to take an oath to become a Member of Parliament, and it was “our culture” that was forced to change to accommodate his scruples.

    In 1978, a gay rights demonstration in Sydney was broken up by police and people were arrested. That was “our culture” at the time. However, the culture changed, and this year the government and the police apologised for this action.

    Are we to accept people who wear hats because that’s “our culture” but reject people who wear turbans because that’s not “our culture”?

    It’s a sobering reflection to think that Hitler initially came to power by the ballot box but I don’t think that means we should draw the line on elections.

    It can be very hard to work out where to draw the line.

  40. Stephen Mynett says:

    To allow MPs to affirm was a cultural change for the better, to give equal rights to gays is a change for the better. To allow misogyny and anyone to denigrate women is not a change for the better.

    As Russell said, we have to know where to draw the line but in this case it is quite simple, there is no way we should embrace cultural changes that take away rights or allow a people to be demeaned.

  41. Daz says:

    Michael Glass

    “It can be very hard to work out where to draw the line.”

    It can, yes. But not in this case. In this case it is very easy to spot that a group of people (women) are being discriminated against. There is no need to inquire as to whether this matches attitudes in “our culture” (which, sadly, it does, all too often). Take it back to first principles:

    Is harm being done? Yes, one group is being treated as less worthy of respect than another group.
    Is the harm being done necessary in some way? No.
    Is the harm avoidable? Yes.
    Therefore the action is an immoral action, and should be opposed by all.

    And again I ask you: would you extend the same leniency toward a world-view, religious or not, which took the same stance on race as the one in question does on gender?

  42. Michael Glass says:

    I can’t imagine a situation where someone these days would object to shaking hands just because the person was from a different race or ethnic group.If anyone dis so, they would face the full force of public hostility, and rightly so.

    Why is it seen to be harmful when a boy refuses to shake hands with his female teacher, but not so harmful when a girl refuses to shake hands with her male teacher?

    Is the custom of shaking hands so sacred that it must be enforced on all? Not all Muslims are so strict about shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, but some are, and this raises questions about whether to do something about it and if so, what what to do.

    I think the problem is not the refusal to shake hands as much as the refusal of a boy to shake hands with a woman with authority. When this happens, the refusal can be seen as attack on female equality and rights. Those who see it this way feel bound to do something about it and take a stand against it.

    However, I see the refusal to shake hands as a result of the traditional Islamic taboo against touching unrelated people of the opposite sex, Therefore, I’m prepared to be more flexible about what to do about it.

  43. Daz says:

    Michael Glass

    “I can’t imagine a situation where someone these days would object to shaking hands just because the person was from a different race or ethnic group.”

    You think racism doesn’t exist? Really?

    “If anyone dis so, they would face the full force of public hostility, and rightly so.”

    Substituting “should” for your “would,” we’ve found a point of agreement. Why, though, are you willing to extend leniency to equally bigoted gender-discrimination? Why should “I’m not touching you because you’re a woman” be less worthy of condemnation than “I’m not touching you because you’re black”?

    “Why is it seen to be harmful when a boy refuses to shake hands with his female teacher, but not so harmful when a girl refuses to shake hands with her male teacher?”

    Who has said that such attitudes would not be equally sexist? But (A) that’s not the topic under discussion—you’ve introduced it from thin air—and (B) I can think of no wide-spread belief system, religious or secular, which discriminates against men in such fashion. Please understand, it is not the boy who is being criticised, here: it is the belief system which has been foisted upon him.

    “Is the custom of shaking hands so sacred that it must be enforced on all?”

    Enforced is a strong word. In the circumstances described in the OP, it should certainly be considered good manners to shake hands, since that appears to be the usual custom. That’s not the issue though. If the refusal had been non-gender-specific, then it would merely be a matter of manners. As it is, the refusal is sexist because it discriminates on grounds of gender.

    “I think the problem is not the refusal to shake hands as much as the refusal of a boy to shake hands with a woman with authority.”

    And which deity swung down from Heaven in order to pop this completely unevidenced “fact” into your head? Still an’ all, I fail to see how this would mitigate the sexism involved, since he’s not refusing to shake hands with men in authority.

    “When this happens, the refusal can be seen as attack on female equality and rights. Those who see it this way feel bound to do something about it and take a stand against it. “

    Because it is an attack on female equality. And, yes, we should all feel bound to do something about such attacks on the equality of any group who are unfairly discriminated against.

    “However, I see the refusal to shake hands as a result of the traditional Islamic taboo against touching unrelated people of the opposite sex, Therefore, I’m prepared to be more flexible about what to do about it.”

    Why does the fact that it’s based in religion make it less worthy of condemnation? Why should “God told me to do it” make bad behaviour excusable?

    And yet again I ask the question you dodged: Would you be as eager to extend leniency in the case of ( think of it as hypothetical if you must) religiously based race-discrimination? And if not, why is bigotry against women less worthy of condemnation than bigotry against non-white people?

  44. Michael Glass says:

    Firstly, knowing something about Islamic customs does not make a person a believer, or a Muslim.

    Racism is a great evil. I would not be lenient to a case where a person discriminated against another on the grounds of race. However, no major religion that I am aware of sanctions such discrimination.

    If a student refused to shake hands with his or her teacher, I would demand an explanation. After all, shaking hands is a courtesy in our society, and a refusal to shake hands is seen as a hostile act.

    At this point, strict Muslim custom comes into conflict with our standards of politeness, because it demands that unrelated people of the opposite sex should not touch each other. This rule applies to both men and women, and, if strictly followed, would forbid a female student from shaking hands with her male teacher as well as forbidding male students from shaking hands with female teachers. It would also cause great problems in medical practice.

    If this custom is the reason for not shaking hands, a refusal is not simply a case of “bad behaviour.”Nor is it just a case of treating women as second class citizens as it applies equally to both sexes. However, if the student refused to shake the hand of the teacher because she was not a Muslim, or because she was known to be Jewish, or Christian or Atheist, then that would be totally unacceptable.

    This Muslim refusal to allow unrelated people of the opposite sex to touch each other is problematical. It obviously creates great problems, a refusal to shake hands being only one of them. But to do something about it, we have to understand what the custom involves. Then we will be in a better position to deal with it. And this includes arguing against it.

  45. John says:

    Michael Glass: What is the actual religious basis for refusing to shake hands?
    Where in the Koran does it say opposite sex persons must not shake hands?
    Otherwise, there is no religious basis for refusing to shake hands.

  46. Michael Glass says:

    According to the article above, one of the smaller Muslim organisations in Switzerland has supported a ban on shaking hands with a person of the opposite sex. I don’t know, however, that the Koran says anything about it. (Not that that would stop the ultrafastidious from finding fault with the custom.)

    If people in the religion say that you can’t do it, I guess that this is the religious basis for not shaking hands with a person of the opposite sex. These things don’t have to be logical, you know.

    I think one way to counter this custom is to point out the disadvantages of such a blanket ban on touching. I was once at a discussion run by the Festival of Light in Australia where Christian teachers pointed out that certain books had to be studied in the English course. It became obvious that the people in the Festival of Light who objected were out on a limb.