Muslim Woman Booted From Interview For Refusing Handshake Wins Case

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A Muslim woman in Sweden just won a discrimination lawsuit after her job interview was terminated because she refused to shake hands with the male interviewer.

Farah Alhajeh, 24, was interviewing for a job as an interpreter in Uppsala, Sweden, when she placed her hand over her heart to greet the male interviewer.

The company ended the interview because Alhajeh would not shake the man’s hand and said that her actions contradicted their policy, which requires that all staff treat men and women equally. The interview took place in 2016.

Alhajeh tried to abide by the company’s policy and said that when she is in mixed company, she greets men and woman in the same manner by bringing her hand to her chest.

“We live in a society where you have to treat women and men the same,” said Alhajeh. “I know that because I am Swedish.”

Alhajeh said that she smiled and explained that she was placing her hand over her heart instead of shaking hands because she was Muslim, to which the interviewer responded by escorting her to the elevator.

“It was like a punch in the face,” she said.

A Swedish labor court ruled 3-2 in Alhajeh’s favor, concluding that “the woman’s refusal to shake hands with people of the opposite sex is a religious manifestation that is protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The labor court awarded Alhajeh 40,000 kronor, which is approximately $4,350, for the discrimination she suffered by the company.

Alhajeh told BBC News that she was happy about the ruling.

“In my country... you cannot treat women and men differently. I respect that. That's why I don't have any physical contact with men or with women. I can live by the rules of my religion and also at the same time follow the rules of the country that I live in,” she concluded.

The company could have avoided the court proceedings by simply listening to the young woman’s explanation, which was quite rational and an excellent compromise. Religious freedom of expression should not be used as a discriminatory tool to bar people from employment. Anyone who would be offended by a woman who places her hand over her heart as she smiles to greet you clearly has a problem, and it isn’t with the lack of a handshake. 

Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters

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