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.


Taliban to talk to Swedish NGO after Afghan clinic closures

Updated 45 min 46 sec ago
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Taliban to talk to Swedish NGO after Afghan clinic closures

  • The closure of the health facilities is expected to affect 6,000 people
  • Two employees died last week after a rain on an NGO clinic

KABUL: The Taliban said they will hold talks with representatives of a Swedish non-profit group after threats by the insurgents forced the organization to close 42 clinics it runs in eastern Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban would talk with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan on Thursday “to resolve the situation” in Maidan Wardak province.
Mujahid offered no details on where and how the meeting would take place.
The closures of the facilities run by the Swedish NGO in Taliban-controlled areas of Maidan Wardak are expected to affect almost 6,000 people. The clinics in government controlled parts of the province remain open.
The closures came after Afghan forces last week raided a clinic run by the NGO, in pursuit of the Taliban. Two staffers died in the raid.