A Muslim asylum seeker in Ireland has been denied a well-deserved award for his volunteer work after asking organizers not to be asked to shake hand with the lady presenting the award, the Times reported on Sunday, June 22.
"The judges had decided that someone else should get the award," said Benedicta Attoh, a member of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Inter-culturalism.
Alinoor Ahmed Sheikh, a Somali Muslim based in an asylum hostel in Tralee, was to receive an award for his efforts to raise funds for Amnesty International.
Ahead of the ceremony, he asked the Africa Center in Dublin, the organizers, not to be asked to shake the female presenter's hand.
Sheikh said he was initially assured by organizers that his request not to shake Attoh's hand would be accommodated because it was based on his religious beliefs.
However, five minutes before the prize announcement his name was crossed out and the prize went to an absent volunteer.
"I don't think I would have presented his prize if he wouldn't shake my hand because I'm a woman," said Attoh, chairwoman of the Africa Centre's board.
According to the 2006 census, Ireland is home to some 33,000 Muslims, making up about 1 percent of its total population.
Ali Selim, the General Secretary of the Irish Council of Imams, described Sheikh's request as "part of a code of modesty for Muslims that we don't shake hands with the opposite sex."
"I don't think it involves a personal issue. Not all Muslims would do it but it is a common practice."
According to Shari`ah, the basic rule discourages shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, but if one were put in an awkward situation, then there would be no harm to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
This ruling applies to Muslims living in the West because of the social customs prevailing in these countries.
The Irish Refugee Council, one of the sponsors, described the situation as "complicated".
"All the organizers will be meeting to discuss the event and to plan how to deal with such problems in the future," said a spokesman.
The Africa Center in Dublin described the incident as a "mistake" that had nothing to do with Sheikh's request.
Mubarak Habib, a project officer, said the Muslim refugee would shortly receive a joint award for his volunteer work.
Source: Islam Online (English)