The Dutch human rights institute has rejected criticism of its recent decision about a potential bus driver refusing to shake hands with women, saying respect for religious differences is a key value in society.
The institute was responding to angry comments made by The Hague city councilors about its backing for a Muslim man who had applied for a job as a bus driver but later said he would not shake the hand of female passengers. The bus company then cancelled the interview.
VVD councillor Queeny Raijkowski told the Telegraaf earlier this week the decision was ‘political correctness gone too far’.
Christian Democrat councilor Sander van Waveren said: ‘Shaking hands is the norm in the Netherlands and if you do not do this, you put yourself at a disadvantage.’
In its ruling, the institute said it had to weigh up interests between discrimination on grounds of sex and discrimination on grounds of religion. The bus company’s demand is legitimate for the sake of client-friendliness but a refusal to shake hands is no obstacle to doing the job, the council said.
In a second statement on Wednesday, the council said that freedom of religion is protected in Dutch equality laws.
The bus company Qbuzz was unable to show that shaking hands is an essential part of the job of bus driver or to show that confrontational or unsafe situations would arise because of his refusal.
The council’s rulings are not binding.
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