Court: Man Who Wouldn't Shake Woman's Hand Can't Be Citizen

Judges reject doctor applying for German naturalization after he spurned official's gesture
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2020 8:05 AM CDT
Updated Oct 24, 2020 10:30 AM CDT
Guy Loses Citizenship Bid Over a Refused Handshake
No handshake, no citizenship papers in Germany.   (Getty Images/Rattankun Thongbun)

A court has decided that a Muslim doctor from Lebanon who aced his German naturalization exam shouldn't be awarded citizenship after all, after he refused to shake hands with the female official who tried to give him his naturalization certificate. Per Deutsche Welle, the 40-year-old doctor, who studied in Germany and has lived there for nearly two decades, received the best score possible on the naturalization test, but when the official citizenship ceremony was held in 2015, things went awry during the certificate handoff. When he declined to shake hands with the woman who was bestowing the certificate, she pulled it back and wouldn't give it to him. His case came before the Administrative Court of Baden-Wuerttemberg (VGH), where he argued he'd made a promise to his wife he would never shake hands with another woman.

The VGH judges didn't accept his excuse, ruling last Friday that, to become a German citizen, an applicant has to be willing to integrate into German society according to its rules, which include gender equality. By not shaking the official's hand, the court said, the doctor was signaling that he saw her as "posing the threat of sexual seduction" and acting in a "fundamentalist" manner, per the Telegraph. The man tried to say that, in the interest of fairness, he would stop shaking hands with men, too, but the court rejected that argument, noting that handshakes are not only a centuries-old greeting and farewell ritual, but also a legal signal of sorts that an agreement has been made. The doctor will be able to appeal his case in federal court. (More Germany stories.)

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