AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — A Muslim woman who refuses to shake men’s hands for religious reasons cannot be barred from a Dutch teacher-training program. The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission found Monday that the Regional Education Center in the city of Utrecht illegally ”discriminated, indirectly, on the basis of religion,” when it rejected Fatima Amghar for its program.
Amghar, 20, said her religious beliefs forbid her from having physical contact with men over the age of 12. The school rejected her application, arguing that shaking hands was routine for a teaching assistant in Dutch society. But ”there are other conceivable manners of greeting that can be considered proper and respectful,” the commission ruled. It warned that Dutch schools risk excluding Muslim women from society unless they find a way to accommodate their beliefs. Amghar’s case is the latest in a series of decisions on the behavior ofo Muslims in the Netherlands.
The same commission ruled last year against an Islamic school that refused to accept a Muslim woman for a teaching position because she refused to wear a headscarf. In 2004, another Muslim woman won her case when she complained that she was barred from entering a restaurant in The Hague for wearing a headscarf. After France banned the wearing of headscarves in public schools, the Dutch government decided to leave that question up to individual schools. Most allow headscarves. However, four months ago parliament approved a ban on wearing the all-covering burqa in public.
The City of Utrecht cut some welfare benefits to unemployed women who insist on wearing burqas to job interviews. The city claimed the women were using the burqa to avoid working, since they knew they wouldn’t be hired. Muslims comprise six percent of Dutch society. Most are first or second generation immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, where the burqa is not common.