If like me you are required to deal with members of the opposite sex professionally, you will understand a working Muslim woman’s predicament.
I am taught to have a business like demeanour.
I am encouraged to maintain eye contact, come across as friendly, confident and always offer a firm handshake to my clients. The reputation of my organisation depends on it and so does my job.
With my body language, I’m supposed to be showing how open, welcoming and ready for business I/we am.
The truth is as a Muslimah I don’t wish to make eye contact or shake hands with my (mostly male) clients. On the other hand I don’t want to alienate myself or come across as unapproachable and stand offish as it would be detrimental for future business prospects.
I’m loath to explain that Islam forbids the handshake.
If I told my clients the reason for not wanting to rub palms, I would be differentiating myself from other people. No one would understand anyway.
I would also be drawing attention to myself and encouraging gossip in the office about how I refused to shake hands because I am Muslim thereby adding to all the other negative stereotypes of Muslims.
Besides how many people can I explain this to? Everyone I meet?
How do you deal with religious sensitivities when you are part of the mainstream?
With the current anti-Islam rhetoric, I might be called horrible names like ‘Islamist’. A name I abhor.
People want to shake hands when they meet you whether you are male or female and unless you live in the Middle East or a Muslim country, you can’t escape the hand.
The traditional Indians do the namaste greeting where they clasp their hands together and press them towards their chest thereby circumventing a handshake.
The Japanese will bow to avoid shaking hands. By bowing, they are guarding their personal space and keeping the distance between you and them. They are avoiding shaking hands with you.
Many business people understand the bowing culture and will respectively bow back to Japanese clients. Why can’t they understand the no handshake rule about the Muslimahs?
There is a great need to teach the non- Ummah the etiquette of greeting a Muslim woman.
Men should not be offended when a Muslim woman does not proffer her hand in greeting.
What is the etiquette of greeting a Muslim woman without offending her? Simple. Keep your hands to yourself!
If you are a man and you want to greet a Muslim woman, the etiquette is you place your right (greeting) hand on the left hand side of your chest. By doing this you are acknowledging the woman’s presence and greeting her without touching her or invading her personal space.
Below is an example of how to greet a Muslim woman as demonstrated by Justin Trudeau the Prime Minister of Canada.
As for me, whilst everyone around me is busy shaking hands with clients, I will continue to stand there, hands firmly by my side and hope that no-one extends a hand in my direction.
If they do, I will inevitably end up taking the hand stretched out in front of me with my own limp, reluctant handshake and hope that someday someone will teach men the etiquette of greeting a Muslim woman.