A Sydney school has approved a policy that has disallowed Muslim boys from shaking hands with women. The adoption of the policy was unveiled at a recent awards ceremony at Hurstville Boys Campus of George River College.
A principal told women presenters that some students would not shake hands because of the new policy. Instead, the boys placed their hands across their chest while they confronted the well-known women presenters. An NSW Department of Education spokesman said that the school had an “agreed protocol,” which was approved only after consultation with staff, parents, and boys.
“The department requires its schools to recognize and respect the cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds of all students, with the intent to promote an open and tolerant attitude towards a diverse Australian community,” a department spokesperson said. “Principals are best placed to know the needs of their local school communities when implementing this requirement.”
Former Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit said that a young group of students take the policy quite seriously and follow it without failure. “They (students) want to live by the standard they have been taught, and for some young adults, when they meet people of the opposite sex, to shake someone’s hand suggests a friendship,” he told The Australian.
“But it can become an issue. In the context of a country like Australia, many people aren’t aware of such a custom. You can explain it but you can potentially embarrass people. You know that saying ‘don’t leave me hanging’.”
Sydney School Introduces Hadith With an Intention
The Sydney school is a small educational institution having students from diverse backgrounds. The school hosts pupils from Year 7-10, the total number of students being 354. The media reports have noted that there are still some specialist Islamic schools that have implemented such policies. Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Keysar Trad said that the hadith was introduced to help women avoid “unwelcome overtures or touch”.
He, on the other hand, stated Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed still shakes hands with women. He also cited an example of him shaking hands with predecessor Fehmi Naji El-Imam. “The Islamic teachings offer great respect and protection for women,” Trad said.
“There are differences in interpretation. I used to apologize profusely and pray they were not offended, I used to feel so guilty. I did some research and they explained the whole idea is to protect women from unwelcome touching, if it’s an innocent handshake, it’s OK. It’s better not to offend a woman. I changed my approach,” he added.