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12:19 AM
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A: As a Muslim student, how to refuse to shake the opposite sex's hand without offending them?

zabopI live in northern Europe, and I haven't had a handshake in a long time. COVID regulations have changed habits, so I hope this issue turns out to be less of a problem than you might imagine it now. I like the suggestion in Arno's answer of putting your hands behind your backs & nodding. On the ot...

 
I don't agree about the racism point: "western ideas" are not a race, so would you elaborate on why this is racist? If classist in this sense means rejecting ideas forcing OP to behave in the described way, then I'm happy to be classist.
 
@zabop this is a terribly one-sided and predjudiced answer that doesn't even pretend to help OP. The only constructive parts is the reference to an existing answer.
 
But you, yourself, are trying to force OP to behave in a certain way. Are you some sort of moral authority? Infallible?
 
I think it helps getting an understanding of how ridiculous such a behavior is, and having this understanding might help OP to be less stressed out and either follow Arno's answer or shake hands in a non-sexist manner.
I think it is rather important to have an answer which calls this behavior out as sexist, because by a significant fraction of people encountered by OP will probably view it as such. Feel free to edit it to make it less harsh but conveying the message.
@Buffy, I don't think I am trying to force anyone to do anything.
@Buffy, extended my answer by a line, I hope it makes it better.
 
Actually, few sensible people will dislike the OP for following their beliefs. I had a muslim woman colleague who followed this practice. I greatly respected her teaching and dealing with students. I'd have liked to shake her hand or even give her a hug, but that would have been disrespect on my part. It is good to accept people as they are.
 
12:19 AM
@Buffy, that is nice to hear! OTOH, what would be your problem then with the following defence? "Actually, few sensible people will dislike the proud boys for following their beliefs. I had a white-supremacist colleague who followed this practice. I greatly respected her teaching and dealing with students. I'd have liked to shake her hand or even give her a hug, but as a black man, that would have been disrespect on my part. It is good to accept people as they are." Ofc, I agree with not hugging or shaking hands of people who don't want to be hugged/shaking hands, for whatever reason.
 
I'm not sure if "if you engage in a certain action with people of a certain sex but not with people of the opposite sex then you're sexist" is a valid argument alone. One would also need to inquire about the reasons behind this difference: is it motivated by prejudice/discrimination? While I can agree in part, I would like to see a better motivation in this answer rather than just that absolute.
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Hmmm, are you a proud boy?
 
Thank you for the feredback @FedericoPoloni, I don't think I can improve it but if you can, feel free to edit it.
@Buffy, I am not :)
 
@gnometorule, in fact, this particular practice is not sexist since it is symmetric and doesn't imply any superiority of one sex over the other. It has a very different implication, but not a sexist one. It binds both sexes equally.
 
gnometorule, thank you for the examples! I like the last one especially. Buffy, I would ask you about your opinion about christians not serving gays, but that would steer this thread to seriously off-topic areas, so I'll refrain.
 
12:19 AM
@gnometotherule I don't think this answer is unreasonable, I think it's just one-sided or myopic. In your example, refusing to serve gay people is a clear expression of disrespect. The same is true for segregation. The case of refusing to shake hands could be due to disrespect, but the person who refuses to shake hands might also be respectful of women. The case that he's asking hints at the latter; it shows that he's aware that his refusal can be perceived as disrespectful. Since he doesn't want to express disrespect, he finds himself in a dilemma that he's trying to resolve.
 
@henning, if OP asked about gay/black people, would that be a hint that he respects them? The argument that asking the question"shows that he's aware that his refusal can be perceived as disrespectful. Since he doesn't want to express disrespect, he finds himself in a dilemma that he's trying to resolve." could also be made if the subject of the concern are not women, but gays/blacks. I doubt if he would get such an apologetic response, as he did to this question.
 
"Noone (I hope) forces you to be a muslim." Depending on what country he's from, apostasy from Islam might be punished by death - so people very well may be forcing him to be a Muslim in a very real way.
 
If he is in such a country, I don't think he would be expected to shake hands of females. I know that many muslim societies behave as ridiculously as some of the european societies did during the dark ages. I still hope, that OP is lucky enough not to be born into such a system.
 
@zabop It sounds like he's emigrating from his home country to study in Europe. Even if he wouldn't be forced to remain a Muslim while in Europe, he'd still face the death penalty if he became an apostate while in Europe once he returned home afterwards, if he is from a country where that's the law.
 
This might be the case, yes. OP, if you read this, is this the case? I hope it is not.
@nick012000, I added your concern to the answer, I hope it is better now.
 
12:19 AM
(1) @zabop thanks for your comment. It explains your perspective quite well and almost convinced me for a moment. On workplace.se there is a pretty good suggestion how not to shake hands with a member of the opposite gender while conveying respect. This wouldn't work in the entirely hypothetical case where a religion would forbid shaking hands with persons of different skin color, as in your thought experiment. In the first case, even a non-Muslim can understand that the handshake taboo is merely an implication of a taboo on physical touch between strangers of opposite gender. Therefore, ...
(2) the non-Muslim needn't interpret the refusal as a sign of disrespect, especial if it is replaced (as suggested in the workplace.se answer) by an equally respectful gesture. The touching taboo is part of regulating sexuality and intimacy, and we find expressions of this in every religion. By contrast, in the second case, your hypothetical ban on touching persons of different skin color can hardly be construed as mere implication of religious rules on gender relations, and therefore it is hard to interpret as something else than a sign of disrespect. As always when discussing the meaning ...
(3) of signs (gestures, words), different contexts give rise to different understandings, so I won't argue that my perspective is more objective than any others, but I guess it's a case where tolerance is helpful.
(4) By the way, I knew a German who spent some time in France and who got red ears whenever he had to greet French ladies with the conventional bisous. Less of an issue with men, but still a bit awkward. At some point he just took to extending his hand really quickly before someone got a bit too close. Very Allemand, but he couldn't help it. Just an example for how gestures of intimacy can be perceived differently even across a single border. (That guy was me, of course.)
 
@henning, thank you for the detailed reply!
 
Ben
@zabop: I have downvoted this answer, but per your comments, I'm glad the answer is here because it does indeed reflect the views of what some people will think about this practice. So thanks for posting it. Having an answer like this, and having the upvote/downvote mechanism kick in, will be helpful to OP in seeing how some people might react to this practice, and what others think of that reaction. So, while I agree with a lot of the critiques in the comments (and have downvoted), thanks for posting this answer.
 
 
3 hours later…
2:55 AM
This is a great answer. There is no way to move to a country where equality between the sexes is a strong value, shake hands with men and not women, and not be deemed sexist. The only viable solution is to not shake hands with anyone, which I think would be an acceptable solution to all involved.
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15 hours later…
5:26 PM
@henning I've not heard of a religious prohibition on touching people based on skin colour, but class based ones certainly do exist. Various places have some variety of caste system, which either forbids or stigmatises touching another caste. A caste system generally does imply some aspect of character judgement, which I think renders it less defensible. This demonstrates that it's a bit subtler than just being a religious requirement, it's about the religion's reasons for the requirement too.
 
 
1 hour later…
6:47 PM
@Clumsycat yes, more complex still. Hence my allusion to the sexuality-regulating rationale of the touch-taboo. Whether that's rational or not is yet a different question, but I suppose we can't demand strict rationality from religions. In liberal/pluralist societies we can only demand that they are not completely unreasonable. Some of the more opinionated answers here don't really allow for complexity.
 

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