France Denies Citizenship To Muslim Algerian Woman Over Handshake

The ceremony for French citizenship involves shaking an official's hand. But in Islamic teaching, handshakes between unrelated men and women are prohibited.

An Algerian woman applying for French citizenship was denied on the basis of her refusal to shake the hand of a senior official. 

The unnamed woman said her "religious beliefs" prevented her from shaking the hand of a male official during a citizenship ceremony in France's south-eastern Isère region. 

The Algerian woman has been married to a French citizen since 2010. 

A French appeals court upheld the government's ruling that she has "not assimilated into the French community." French civil code allows denial of citizenship to the spouse of a French citizen on such a basis. 

In Islamic teaching, unrelated men and women are not allowed to shake hands, apparently the basis for the woman's non-participation in that aspect of the ceremony. 

This development comes as tensions over immigration have risen in France over the last few years. 

Many nations have found reasonable accommodations for citizens' whose personal views do not jibe with legal ceremonies. In the United States for instance, before giving sworn testimony in court, people traditionally place their hands on a Bible and swear to tell the truth "so help you God." But it is not technically a requirement. A person can simply "affirm" that they will tell the truth, and do not need to touch a Bible. 

Surely, this kind of principle could apply to France's handshake ceremony. The shaking of a hand is mere cultural tradition, not evidence bearing on one's ability to be a good citizen. 

 Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, BENOIT TESSIER

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