Saturday, November 24, 2007

To shake or not to shake?

In a prelude to peace, Western audiences need to brace themselves for the sights of some of the peace-loving gestures in store for us from the Annapolis Summit, if this is any example to go by:

Bahrain's "Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa... launched the offensive in parliament after one MP said he should wash his hands with water six times and then rub them with sand after shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart Tzipora "Tzipi" Livni."

So out of curiosity, I googled the terms "Muslims" "shake hands" "Jews", and here is a sampling of what I found:

* He recounted one incident in particular when four African American converts made their declarations at his mosque but only a few members came over to shake their hands. “It was the most lackluster, depressing sight...No one seemed thrilled that Islam had gained four new adherents in a single day in that mosque.” The following week, a white American embraced Islam and the whole mosque erupted in joy. “Islam teaches that we are all equal in the sight of God. How can immigrants explain this? What Islam are they practicing?”

* Police said Sunday that a Muslim woman officer had refused to shake hands with London's police chief during a graduation ceremony last month due to her religious beliefs, fanning a debate in Britain over the assimilation of Muslims into society. (Here and here)

* Islamic Etiquette

Imam al-Baqir (a.s) said: “When two believers hiding from each other because of a quarrel meet, they should shake hands.”

.. the reward of the one who holds on tothe hand shake is greater than that of the one who let go.”

.. Shake each other’s hands for it eliminates ill will.”

.. he Messenger-s.a.w- never shook hands with anyone and withdrew his hand first.”

..Imam Áli (a.s) said: “Shake hands with, and smile and show joy to your fellow Moslems when you meet them; this way your sins will be abolished before you disperse.”

* Saudi TV examines public attitudes toward Jews

Interviewer: 'Would you, as a human being, be willing to shake hands with a Jew?'

Respondent 1:

"Of course I wouldn't be willing to shake hands with a Jew, for religious reasons and because of what is happening now in Palestine, and for many reasons that don't allow me to shake a Jew's hand."

Respondent 2:

"No. Because the Jews are eternal enemies. The murderous Jews violate all agreements. I can't shake hands with someone who I know is full of hatred towards me."

Respondent 3:

"No, the Jew is an enemy. How can I shake my enemy's hand?
Interviewer: "Would you refuse to shake hands with a Jew?"

Respondent 4:

"Of course, so I wouldn't have to consider amputating my hand afterwards."

Interviewer: 'If a child asks you 'Who are the Jews,' what would you answer?'

Respondent 5:

"The enemies of Allah and His Prophet."

Respondent 6:

"The Jew is the occupier of our lands."

Respondent 7:

"The murderers of prophets. Our eternal enemies, of course."

Respondent 2:

"The murderers of prophets, that's it."

Respondent 8:

"Allah's wrath is upon them, as the Koran says. Allah's wrath is upon them and they all stray from the path of righteousness. They are the filthiest people on the face of this earth because they care only about themselves - not the Christians, not the Muslims, nor any other religion. "The solution is clear, not only to me but to everyone. If only [the Muslims] declared Jihad, we would see who stays home. We have a few countries. There is one country with a population of over 60-70 million people. If we let them only march, with no weapons even, they would completely trample the Jews, they would turn them into rotten carcasses under their feet. There is another country that donated money, saying, 'I am behind you, I'll support you with weapons, just wage [Jihad].' "But the cowardice inside us, deep within our hearts, was instilled by the Arab leaders, may Allah forgive them. They breast-fed us with it from the day we were born to this very day it has grown with us."

Well, then, what's to be said about all this?

Seems like there needs to be a narrowing of the gap between the hostile Arab Muslim position of the handshake, and the Israeli-Jewish fervid position of extending their Israeli-Jewish hands to almost anyone who would shake it. Arabs should be more like Israelis. Israelis should learn some ... restraint from the Arabs. So once again, I searched the Internet for some useful counsel, and indeed found two respective suggestions:

The first, I would direct to the Arabs:

"A human being's** first responsibility is to shake hands with himself.” (Henri Winkler)

The second I would urge the Israeli leaders to observe, with some discrimination:

I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.
(Lee Iacoca)


** This seems like a good opportunity to retell a story I once read about Henry Kissinger.

When he first visited the Saudi Kingdom as US secretary of state, he was received by the King who welcomed him with these words: You are welcome here, Dr. Kissinger, not as a Jew but as a human being. To which speech Kissinger replied: Some of my best friends are human beings...


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