In my first real job, way back in the early 80s, my mentor taught me how to shake hands. I was a causal and undisciplined person in those days. I thought learning the art of the handshake absurd. 25 years later, it remains a valuable life lesson. My mentor was a wise man. he knew that the handshake was an important first step in developing business and personal relationships.
As I traveled abroad, I have learned the customers of other cultures. Many cultures use the western style handshake as a courtesy when doing business with Americans. I have grown used to the "dead fish" handshake of my Asian friends. I no longer offer my usual bone crusher.
A few years ago when I was working in France. I met a Muslim man from North Africa. We became friends. When I was invited to his home, I met his wife. As I extended my hand in greeting, he stepped between us while politely saying it was improper for a man to touch a woman in his culture. I remember thinking it odd that I was in the cradle of western culture, yet some ancient religious ownership game was taking precedent over a simple gesture of kindness. I thought it absurd then, and even more so now.
Mohammad Khatami, an Iranian Cleric and former president of Iran, was filmed shaking hands with uncovered women in Italy. The uproar and subsequent machinations are astounding. Iranians think the whole thing is a CIA plot.
The Iranian hardline daily “Kayhan”, run by Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, a high-ranking intelligence officer specializing in the interrogation of political and intellectual dissidents who is a senior advisor to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, suggested Khatami, had allowed himself to fall prey of a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) trap.
Say what? Khatami was simply pressing flesh and kissing babies, just like any other political figure in the western world. CIA? how absurd! My guess is that his sin was calculated to send a message inside Iran.
Laws against touching women, even if only forbidding the shaking of hands, exist to suppress and marginalize women. When women are kept veiled behind the doors of their homes, they loose their voice in society. Theocracy is to blame. Iran is an Islamic Theocracy. Laws requiring the wearing of the veil and forbidding the touching of women trump human rights, especially when all a cleric need do is thump his Koran to get his way. It is a sad state of affairs made all the more absurd by Iranian conspiracy theories.