Handshake refusal row rumbles on

Calls by Integration Minister Rita Verdonk for the Equal Opportunities Commission to be abolished, following its backing for a teacher who refuses to shake hands on religious grounds, go too far, says Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

Nevertheless, Balkenede said he had difficulty accepting the commission’s ruling, news agency ANP reported him as saying.
On Tuesday, the commission said that the duties of the Muslim teacher were not being hampered by her refusal to shake men’s hands, and that there were other forms of greeting she could use.
Head teacher of the Vader Rijn College, Bart Engbers, told the Volkskrant the issue went far beyond being a simple case of good manners. ‘Most of our pupils come from poor backgrounds. They find it hard enough to get a job. And it doesn’t help if they go for a job interview having learnt you don’t have to shake hands,’ he said.
On Wednesday, Verdonk described the commission’s ruling as ‘too stupid for words’ and said its abolition should be considered. Verdonk hit the headlines two years ago when she was photographed attempting to shake hands with an Imam, having been warned in advance that he would not make physical contact.
The commission was set up in 1994 to adjudicate on equal opportunity issues in education and the job market.

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