Norwegian Mosque Apologises to Crown Prince for Refusal to Shake Hands

During his visit to al-Noor Islamic Centre to show his support following the 10 August mosque shooting, Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon was left hanging, as several Muslim women refused to shake hands for religious reasons.

Representatives of the Bærum-based Al-Noor Islamic Centre have apologised to Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon for the inconvenient situation, in which three Muslim women ignored his outstretched hand, instead greeting him with a nod and placing a hand to their heart.

“We did not want the Crown Prince to end up in that situation, and we did not know that the three women would refuse to shake hands. We therefore apologise to the Crown Prince that this happened,” information officer Waheed Ahmed told national broadcaster NRK.

According to Ahmed, the staff tried to work out all possible scenarios before the royal visit, which was intended as a token of support following the shooting at the Bærum Islamic Centre, which resulted in one injury.

“Shaking hands was not on our mind, and therefore did not become a topic of discussion. Had we known in advance that the women would not shake hands, we would have informed the Crown Prince about it, but it was completely unknown to us,” Ahmed explained.

Following the royal visit, many reacted by saying that the treatment of the Crown Prince was disrespectful and unbecoming.

“I believe it is disrespectful when Crown Prince Haakon is standing with his hand out in the open air, because a woman refuses to hand greet him because he is a man. Such respect should be shown to our future king and head of state,” Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor-in-chief of the Christian newspaper Dagen tweeted.

​Crown Prince Haakon received a lot of praise for finding a way out by mirroring the ladies's hand gesture.

​27-year-old Zeliha Acar, one of the women who refused to take the Crown Prince's hand, remained firm in her decision, which she called a personal matter. By her own admission, she only shakes hands with her father, husband, son, and brother.

“I have to do to what I feel is right. This is a value I have had for a long time, if I shook the Crown Prince' hand, I would have given up one of the values I hold on to,” Zeliha Acar told NRK.

Acar is a board member of the Islamic Council of Norway, which is an interest organisation for Norway's Muslim communities. She has previously called on the authorities to drop the requirement for visible ears on passports to accommodate the bearers of traditional Islamic veils.

In recent years, there's been quite a number of similar “handshake rows” across Scandinavia, where Muslim men and women have refused to shake hands with the opposite sex as a result of Islamic prescriptions. In 2018, a primary school in Oslo chose not to prolong the tenure of a a Muslim substitute, who refused to shake hands with women.

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