PARIS — An Algerian woman’s refusal to shake hands with male officials at a French naturalization ceremony is sufficient grounds for denying her citizenship, France’s top administrative court has ruled.
In its decision — issued April 11 but reported only last week — the court, known as the Council of State, said that the woman’s refusal “in a place and at a moment that are symbolic, reveals a lack of assimilation.”
The woman, who has not been identified, married a French citizen in Algeria in 2010 and filed for French citizenship five years later. At her naturalization ceremony in 2016 in Grenoble, in southeastern France, the woman refused to shake the hands of a local state official and of a local elected official, both male, citing her religious convictions.
The ruling did not specify the woman’s religion. Some practicing Muslims believe Islam does not permit physical contact with a person of the opposite sex, with the exception of immediate family members.
After the woman refused to shake hands with the officials, she was denied citizenship.
The woman appealed, but the court ruled the decree was legal. The ruling was based on a law that gives the government two years after a foreign spouse files for naturalization to oppose the request on grounds of “lack of assimilation, other than linguistic.” The court also ruled that the decision was not detrimental to her freedom of religion.
The court’s ruling has not garnered widespread attention within the country, but many recent debates in France on the place of Muslims in French society have focused on issues of gender relations and attitudes toward women.
Similar debates have played out elsewhere in Europe. In 2016, local authorities in Switzerland said two Muslim boys, both immigrants from Syria, could not refuse to shake their female teacher’s hand on religious grounds.
In the summer of 2016, France was roiled by debates over the burkini — full-body swimsuits that comply with Islamic modesty standards — after several Mediterranean coastal towns banned them on their beaches.
The veil worn by some Muslim women also has become a flash point in France, which passed a law in 2010 banning face-covering garments like the burqa or niqab in public, although the law did not explicitly mention Islam.
Print Headline: Handshake refusal costs citizenship