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.


Pakistan PM’s defense of the political U-turn sparks mirth

Updated 12 min 29 sec ago
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Pakistan PM’s defense of the political U-turn sparks mirth

  • The opposition has branded the Pakistani PM as ‘U-turn Khan’
  • Some supporters attempted to explain that Khan was misusing the term “U-turn,” and simply meant that leaders must be flexible

ISLAMABAD: Margaret Thatcher was famously not for turning, but Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has declared U-turns to be a “hallmark of great leadership,” in comments provoking criticism from opponents and a slew of jokes from Pakistanis.
Khan, the cricketer-turned-premier, has come under fire since he took office in August for a string of apparent about-faces.
They include backtracking from his claim that as prime minister he would only fly by commercial airliner, caving to Islamist pressure over his decision to appoint a member of a persecuted religious minority as an economic adviser, and allying himself with politicians he has previously declared corrupt.
With the opposition branding him ‘U-turn Khan’, he has defended himself to journalists.
“Both Hitler and Napoleon faced defeat as they did not change their strategies according to the situation... Leaders should always be ready to take U-turns,” he was quoted as saying by the English-language daily Dawn newspaper on Saturday.
Some supporters attempted to explain that Khan was misusing the term “U-turn,” and simply meant that leaders must be flexible.
“While dictators find it difficult to do course correction, leading their countries into disaster, democratic leaders have ability to do timely course correction when needed!” wrote human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
But the comments ignited social media, especially after Khan doubled down on his statement with a fresh tweet on Sunday.
“Doing a U-turn to reach one’s objective is the hallmark of great leadership just as lying to save ill-gotten wealth is the hallmark of crooks,” he wrote.

The tweet prompted a wave of jokes on Twitter.
“I was going to take a bath. I took U turn when I realized that water is cold,” tweeted one user from Peshawar.
“This morning I woke up to drink tea, then I took a U turn and slept again. Now, I have become a real leader,” tweeted another.
Others posted memes including an image of a circular racetrack captioned “Road to Leadership.”
Khan did not appear to respond, but his party’s official Twitter account posted a video clip of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stating: “People who are right a lot change their minds.”