Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Sweden woman who refused handshake at job interview wins case

Sweden woman who refused handshake at job interview wins case

A young Muslim woman in Sweden has spoken to SBS News about the deeply hurtful moment she was shown the door after refusing to shake hands with a male manager during a job interview because of her faith, saying she cried for hours after.

Farah Alhajeh, 24, was interviewing for a job as an interpreter at Semantix, a language services company, in the city of Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in May 2016, when the person conducting the interview offered to introduce her to a male boss.

Farah placed her hand over her heart in greeting instead.

"As soon as I got into the lift I started crying, ' she told SVT".

"I hope I can give hope to other Muslims who go through the same thing and feel there's no point in going on with it", she added.

Sweden's Equality Ombudsman had taken up her case.

Swedish Labour Court ordered a company to pay compensation to a 24-year-old Muslim woman.

In response, Office of discrimination Ombudsman, Sweden which represented Alhajeh said that she did not upset anyone by placing her hand over her heart while greeting.


"In my country. you can not treat women and men differently".

Summing it all on one point, handshakes are a traditional way of greeting in some European countries. but, anti-discrimination legislation may forbid companies and public bodies from treating people differently due to their gender.

"I believe in God, which is very rare in Sweden. and I should be able to do that and be accepted as long as I'm not hurting anyone", she said.

However the judges were divided over the case - with three supporting Ms Alhajeh's claim and two voting against.

The court heard Farah's decision not to shake hands was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, and the company's policy in demanding a specific greeting was detrimental to Muslims.

"In my country. you can not treat women and men differently".

'I can live by the rules of my religion and also at the same time follow the rules of the country that I live in'.

She told the Swedish Labour Court that the interviewer, an executive at the company, had become red in the face and told her: "Here, everyone must shake hands".

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