ISLAM: DUTCH WOMAN WINS CASE AGAINST SCHOOL
Amsterdam, 28 March (AKI) - The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission has found in favour of a Muslim woman who refused to shake men's hands for religious reasons, arguing a Dutch school was wrong to reject her application to become an education assistant for this reason. The commission ruled on Monday that the Regional Education Centre in the city of Utrecht illegally "discriminated, indirectly, on the basis of religion," against Fatima Amghar, 20.
Amghar refused to shake hands with males over 12 because she said Islam forbids physical contact with men, while the school argued handshaking was a part of daily education. The commission however concluded that handshaking at schools was not necessary, as there are other ways of greeting men.
Dutch schools risk excluding Muslim women from society unless the find a a way to acccommodate their beliefs, the commission found. "Every school has the duty to be free of dscrimination and greet men and women equally. This duty extends to individual students who refuse physical contact on religious grounds," it said.
Muslim behaviour in the Netherlands has been in the frame as social and religious tensions in the country have escalated in recent years, exacerbated by the November 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist extremist after he made a film criticising the treatment of women under Islam.
The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission last year ruled against an Islamic school that turned down a Muslim woman for a teaching job because she refused to wear a headscarf. Another Muslim woman won her case in 2004, after appealing against a Hague restaurant that refused to allow her on the premises for wearing a headscarf.
While the Dutch government leaves it up to schools to decide whether pupils may wear headscarves, in November last year, the parliament approved a ban on women wearing the burqa - which covers the body from head to toe. Muslims, who ar mostly of Turkish or Moroccan descent, make up almost six percent of the country's population and number almost one million.