In Spring of 2016, Farah Alhajeh, 24, was interviewing for a job as an interpreter at Semantix (a language service company in Sweden) when the person conducting the interview introduced her to a supervisor. Ms. Alhajeh said she placed her hand on her heart as a greeting, smiled, and explained that she avoided physical contact because of her faith. For that, she was shown the door.
“It was like a punch in the face,” Ms. Alhajeh. “It was the first time someone reacted, and it was a really harsh reaction.” A Swedish labor court concurred, and has ordered the company that had discriminated against Ms. Alhajeh to pay 40,000 kronor (approximately $4,350) in fines.
The labor court said in a statement that Ms. Alhajeh “adheres to an interpretation of Islam that prohibits handshaking with the opposite sex unless it is a close member of the family.” The court concluded that “the woman’s refusal to shake hands with people of the opposite sex is a religious manifestation that is protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”