Swedish Muslim woman who refused handshake from male interviewer wins compensation case

A Swedish Muslim woman, whose job interview was ended after she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer due to her faith, has won a compensation. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Swedish Muslim woman who refused handshake from male interviewer wins compensation case

  • Farah Alhajjeh, 24, was being interviewed for a job as an interpreter last year
  • When she declined to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons, the meeting was terminated

LONDON: A Swedish Muslim woman, whose job interview was ended after she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer due to her faith, has won a compensation case in a Swedish Labor Court ruling.
Farah Alhajjeh, 24, was being interviewed for a job as an interpreter last year, and when she declined to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons, the meeting was terminated.
Alhajjeh, instead, placed her hand over her heart in greeting.
Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsmen took the case to the Labor Court, who ruled on Thursday that the company had discriminated against her and ordered it to pay 40,000 kronor ($4,350) in compensation.
During the case, the company had admitted that germophobia and autism were among its “legitimate” reasons for not shaking hands, but it argued that its policy called for employees to treat all colleagues equally no matter their sex.
By refusing to shake hands with a male colleague, AlHajjeh’s actions had gone against that policy, it said.
Some Muslims choose to avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, except for those in their immediate family.
AlHajjeh argued that in situations where both men and women were present, she would greet women in the same way – by smiling and moving one hand to the heart – to not make the men feel excluded.
The Labor Court said in its ruling that understanding AlHajjeh’s religious reasons for preferring such a greeting meant “there is no reason to perceive (it) as degrading or as a rejection and it would therefore not have to lead to conflicts in the workplace.”
Speaking to the BBC, AlHajjeh said she believed it was important to “never give in when convinced that one is in the right.”
“I believe in God, which is very rare in Sweden... and I should be able to do that and be accepted as long as I’m not hurting anyone.
“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 added.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 24 sec ago
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.