In November, an imam living in the Netherlands refused to shake hands with the Immigration Minister, Rita Verdonk, as she was traveling around promoting Dutch cultural values. (For a photo, see here.)
The incident provoked national consternation about assimilation, or the lack thereof, coming as it did just weeks after the anti-free-speech murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a fundie Muslim in Amsterdam.
Now we have a first-person explanation from an English-speaking son of Allah, born in Canada, who has restated the Muslim position of unbending misogyny. In the op-ed "Let's Not Shake on It" [Toronto Globe and Mail, March 3] a Muslim male, Muhammad Athar Lila, declares he won't shake hands with women—unIslamic, he says—all the while insisting that he is not an extremist, but a modern "laid back" kind of guy.
Curiously, he misunderstands this most basic of greeting rituals, which he calls "a cry for attention." On the contrary, the handshake in ancient times indicated there was no weapon in the open hand and has evolved into a contemporary expression of mutual regard.
So Muhammad is accurately asserting his disrespect of women by refusing to shake hands with persons he considers beneath him.
Even a life spent in North America including Columbia Journalism School hasn't assimilated Muhammad to western standards of gender equality. He is a good reminder that many Muslims will never get with the program of genuine acculturation. We should believe him when he says he is a normal Islamic male.