Despite passing the naturalization test with a high score, a Lebanese man was denied German citizenship reportedly over a handshake.
On Friday, a court in Germany ruled against granting German citizenship to a 40-year-old Lebanese doctor because he would not shake a woman’s hand for religious reasons.
The doctor had been living in Germany since 2002, where he studied medicine and has been working as a senior physician at a clinic.
In 2012, he applied for citizenship through naturalization and passed the test with “the best possible score,” according to DW.
Who knew that one handshake would be his make or break moment?
Apparently, he refused to shake hands with the responsible official who was handing over his naturalization certificate. Due to the awkward incident, the official decided not to give him the certificate and rejected the application.
After an unsuccessful attempt to petition the ruling, the doctor appealed to the Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg (VGH) which also ruled against him.
The VGH held that rejecting a handshake was rejecting integration into the German lifestyle. The court added that anyone who rejects to shake hands on gender-specific grounds was in breach of equality of all people upheld within the constitution.
To affirm his belief in gender equality, the doctor insisted that he would not shake a man’s hand either, but the court dismissed his attempt, claiming it “merely a tactical move.”
He also said he promised his wife he wouldn’t shake another woman’s hand, but that was disregarded as well.
The administrative court ruled that “someone who rejects a handshake due to a ‘fundamentalist conception of culture and values’ because they see women as ‘a danger of sexual temptation’ was thereby rejecting ‘integration into German living conditions,’” reported DW.
Basically, if you don’t like to shake hands with the opposite gender you can’t be a citizen of Germany…
The only option left for this Lebanese doctor is to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court.
Clearly, handshakes hold inarguable significance in German culture. However, the freedom to decide on one’s own lifestyle is also known to be an important value in Germany as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.
Moreover, according to Article 4 of the German constitution, the “freedom of faith and of conscience and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed shall be inviolable,” and “the undisturbed practice of religion shall be guaranteed.”
One of the best examples of such value is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, when faced with a similar situation, responded with tremendous respect for and understanding of the cultures of his citizens.
Interestingly enough, this incident comes at a time when handshakes, in general, are being strictly avoided around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that certainly includes world leaders and lawmakers.
During his recent visit to Lebanon, French President Emmanuel Macron, for instance, held his hands together in the Namaste attitude when greeting President Aoun.
Worth noting that, religion on the side, many people don’t shake hands, whether for health conditions, hygiene, anxiety, or any other reason, such as being germaphobic, or just generally uncomfortable with any physical contact.
With a newfound awareness of how quickly germs spread, it is expected that many people might opt for noncontact greetings going forth.
In fact, new studies show that the handshake as a mode of greeting might be totally discontinued in human interactions in the near future as a consequence of this global pandemic.