Handshakes and Ladies

As practicing Muslims, it is against our beliefs to touch the ajnabee, the opposing gender with no blood relations so to speak. Of course, the rules are more complex than this mere sentence, that there are instances where the said actions are permissible.

Hence, we don't shake hands, hug or touch people from the opposite gender. This is common in the environment where I was brought up so much so it has become one of our life norms. However, norms vary in different places and societies where sometimes they clash among each others.

Once, when I was 14, I went to a summer camp. A big shot (he's a police officer, high rank I suppose) gave us a visit and of course, he had to walk the aisle and shake hands with each of us. I stood by my beliefs to refuse hand shake but with a doubt -"What if he insists?"
When it's my turn, I smiled (more of a grin, methink) and put my right hand towards my chest. It took him a second or more, but he noticed it and gave me an even greater smile and nodded his head.
Phew, it wasn't so bad.

I had similar experiences later on in life, which were quite recent. This time, I was visiting a school and the school itself was expecting another guests, from Bhutan. While I was wondering where Bhutan is in the map of the world, the awaited guests arrived. They are all males, suited in their traditional attires (the attires are alien to me, and having the visual of men in their bath robes with no trousers on was slightly uncomfortable for me, no offense intended). Naturally, they came and greeted us all. I wasn't expecting them to actually greet us and so, I wasn't being ready. By the time these men stood in front of me with their hands reaching out, I was still calculating my next move. Within that few milliseconds, I tried reenacting the move from when I was 14. But maybe because it lacked confidence, they didn't get the clue. Sigh. I thought of telling them but then language might be a barrier. Because, please enlighten me, how do I say I don't want to shake hands with you because of my principles in one short sentence under minimal time limit, without attracting unnecessary attention (from the school host and reporter, yes there is a reporter too there)?

After another millisecond that felt like a thousand light years, of enduring (and awkwardness), I gave in and shook hands with all the guests.

I know some people will dismiss it as something trivial. But the feeling you get afterwards is the real deal - you can't even stand by your beliefs, when you thought you'd hold on to them firmly no matter what.

Another incident rather recently, a man (Malaysian Muslim) greeted me and he offered his hand out of courtesy. I shook my hands away from him. He looked away for a minute only to offer his hand for the second time. He really didn't get it. Sigh.

I saw a video from my Facebook timeline where a lady puts her hand on her chest as a substitute for hand shake during her convocation in a renowned university overseas. Sometimes, non Muslims are more sensitive about this issue, where I base my utmost respect for them.

Anyway, this is just a shred of my experience. I just hope all of us, ladies can be stronger to stand by our principles.

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