Farah Alhajeh, 24 years old, was applying for a job as an interpreter when she demurred to shake the hand of a male interviewer for religious reasons instead she placed her hand at the heart to greet the interviewer as Muslims avoid physical contact with members of the opposite sex, except for those in their immediate family.
Reaction to which, The Swedish labor court ruled the company had discriminated against her and ordered it to pay 40,000 kronor ($4,350; £3,420) in compensation.
Farah was charged by the company in her hometown because this stood against the fundamentals of gender equality nonetheless the management argued that staff were required to treat men and women equally on common grounds and could not allow a staff member to refuse a handshake based on gender.
To this, the Sweden’s labor court took a stance that company was justified in demanding equal treatment for both sexes – but not in demanding that it be in the form of a handshake only. Also, the he court disagreed with the firm’s assertion that Alhajeh’s approach to greetings would cause a problem for effective communication as an interpreter.
The European Convention on Human Rights also protected her stance, it said, and the company’s policy in demanding a specific greeting was detrimental to Muslims.
“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,” Alhajeh asserted her viewpoint.
Summing it all on one point, handshakes are a traditional way of greeting in some European countries. but, anti-discrimination legislation may forbid companies and public bodies from treating people differently because of their gender.