Transparency – “The Handshake” and Muslim businesswomen


“The Handshake” and Muslim businesswomen

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That moment when I awkwardly refuse to handshake a man. It might seem weird to some people out there, but as a Muslim businesswoman, I have made many difficult decisions. Especially in the Western working environment, being visibly Muslim is already a challenge. Sticking out additionally by not compromising on physical contact with the opposite sex, that´s another level.

My question is, however, what is a cultural habit and what is a value?

Transparency means being truthful with everyone about the choices you make in your life.

Leave your comment: 
1) What experiences have you had with “the Handshake” situation?
2) What other stories can you share where they wanted you to compromise to “fit in”, but your values tell you to “stand out”.

What the Halal UK Queen proves white people wrong

You know what is the number one factor why people get promoted?
It´s how well they can blend into the team, the culture and the dominant mass.

Now, obviously, unless we are talking about making business with Islamic companies or a hijab producer, a visibly Muslim woman would not blend in easily on first sight into a team here in the west.

1. Question: why should we? 

Why should I want to “blend in”?

I am not willing in any way to blend in into a mass of people.

Actually, my nightmares often roam around a situation in which people do not look at me weird, because that means I am like them, they cannot see or hear the difference in vision, values and beliefs I have. That means, man another nightmare in which I forgot to put on my hijab, or shook a guys hand.

Now, I know that´s not super usual in the West, that a Muslim woman does not shake hands with her boss, because to be frank, I did when I first started applying for jobs and the normal thing was for me to show respect to a person by shaking their hands. But out of my personal reasoning, and honestly gut feeling and instinct I don´t anymore. I don´t shake a male’s hand, I don´t get into anybody contact with a non-mahram.

I had sisters coming up to me asking me things like:
“Why have you decided not to shake hands?”
“Is it because of your husband?”
“What is wrong about shaking hands?”

And I get it, we are here in the West, we are supposed to adapt to culture, behaviours and etiquette. And to a certain extent, I agree. The fact that I have decided not to, is because I am from this culture, and I know, most of the things we do on a daily basis are matters of habits.
It’s you being used to something.

Understand the difference between habit and value

It’s a cultural thing in parts of Latin America to greet others with a cheek kiss left and right.
It’s a cultural thing in some parts of China to put the hands together and bow a little.
It’s a cultural thing in some parts of Indonesia to great with a nose kiss and its a cultural thing in some parts of the West to shake hands.
Now am I gonna nose kiss, cheek kiss, bow or shake hands depending on the location or the background of a person?


I respect your traditions, but when Western businessmen are in Malaysia and greet a Muslim woman, they also notice that they cannot extend their hands to her and get a feel.

Image result for gif handshake muslim woman

It’s not about where you are to adapt to the person, it’s about who you interact with to adapt to that person. And if there are certain cultural habits you have, you will probably adapt them to your surrounding, but if there are boundaries of values you have, there is no way the location or person in front of you will be able to adjust them towards them.

Values are very different than habits or customs.

I am German, I am a businesswoman and I don´t shake hands with non-mahrams. Not, because I never learned how to show respect to people, but because I have values that I don´t compromise for anyone I meet.

Shaykh Khalid Yasin: “We must be willing and courageous to be a stranger.” 

Now lets come to the beautiful, beautiful Halal UK Queen. Here first of all the video that I a referring to.

You can see a visibly Muslim woman greet Meghan Markle and her mother, in an event that is celebrating the efforts of women in the Al-Manaar Mosque Hubb Community to create together with Meghan Markle a cookbook featuring the foods they prepare for the community who was affected by the Grenfell fire 2017. Now, obviously, Miss Markle brought her husband, who happens to be Prince Harry.

Now, the woman hugs the misses, and when it comes to the Prince, who wants to hug her to refuses politely, in which response the Prince offers her air-kisses while Meghan Markle gently pulls him back as she sees the sisters situation (probably a bit) uncomfortable.

Now, please watch the video yourself, I´ve attached a link because you will need to make up your own mind inshallah.

What this video shows, is something interesting, that I can witness every time I refuse to shake a mans hand.

When a friend retweeted this video it reminded me of what my husband showed me when I told him about my struggle here in the West. He showed me how a woman refused the hand of the Saudi royal.

When I was researching, I saw an article on a young Swedish woman who even won a case after she got rejected at a job interview refusing to shake the man’s hand.

Here some truths about what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in the West, refusing to shake the hand of a male:

The man usually reacts like this:

1. Stage:

Unbelievable consistency to stll shake my hand despite my obvious refusal

2. Stage:

Shocked face and maybe some red cheeks, with a stretched out hand still waiting to be healed from his shock

3. Stage: (now here it varies)

a) Angry face turning into a slight rose and back to a fake smile in miliseconds
b) Shy mini-laughter red ceeks and looking down the floor until getting up again with a fake smile
c) Mumbling like ´oh´, or ´ah´ as if he had strangly remembered that there are people with different manners in the world and.. a fake/real-shy smile
d) – In some rare cases– big eyes and a ´uh, I am so sorry´ and a shy but genuine smile following

4. stage: depending on stage 3

– Normal conversation after a few minutes or
– Weird energy for another 10min until he´s found his self-confidence again

Now, it´s somehow always interesting to watch this game playing in front of my eyes, and here is how I usually wing the situation.

Some tipps for sisters who don´t want to shake a non-mahrams hand
(NO matter WHO and WHAT occasion):

  • Kindly put a genuine smile and put your right hand on your heart
    Image result for gif hands on chest
  • Close your eyes or look down just for a second to give the person time to pull back his attempt to grab your hand
    Related image
  • Tell him in a strong and friendly voice “Thanks, It´s my pleasure to meet you” (the `thank you´ makes them feel admired and they will probably forgive you the refusal)
    Image result for gif nice to meet you
  • Then go on to initiate the conversation by doing small talk or going straight into the topic (if its a meeting), talk about 1-2 sentences that require an answer from the person so he has another few seconds to win back his ego and find his professionalism again.
    Image result for gif meeting

*** Extra tipp for wives:

If you have your husband by your side, just do the same, but instead of taking time simply place your hand on your heart and make a wide swing to your husband so the person in front of you can at least use the stretched-out arm to shake someboody´s hand.

Now, don´t get me wrong, I am not always successful in avoiding handshakes especially when I am in contact with elderly men, who are non-mahrams because frankly, here in Germany people see this as a lack of respect and its a sheer reflex of mine to show respect to elderly people.

BUT, that doesn´t mean I am never gonna be perfecting my non-handshake performance and I will definitely keep doing my best.

In the end, it really does not matter who is in front of you, royal or poor, boss or neighbour. It is about keeping your values and fighting for them with all the persistence and patience we have been given by Allah.

Especially in the West, we even see political debates on what it means to be (enter Nationality here) and why being Muslim means being the opposite of their “cultural values”. But it seems funny to me that we are talking about “values” here, where I get no answer back on what value system you are refering your values to. Because just as we need to be aware that Islam is not cultural, the same way we need to understand that cultural manners, habits and traditions are not vlaues.

Muslim women in the West

Can we be Western and Muslim? Who asks this question didn´t research on their history, economy or arts in their country.

We are part of the West, but we are our own unity within it.

The ummah concept is grounded on united visions, sisterhood and values.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبَّادٍ، وَابْنُ أَبِي عُمَرَ، جَمِيعًا عَنْ مَرْوَانَ الْفَزَارِيِّ، قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّادٍ حَدَّثَنَا مَرْوَانُ، عَنْ يَزِيدَ، – يَعْنِي ابْنَ كَيْسَانَ – عَنْ أَبِي حَازِمٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” بَدَأَ الإِسْلاَمُ غَرِيبًا وَسَيَعُودُ كَمَا بَدَأَ غَرِيبًا فَطُوبَى لِلْغُرَبَاءِ “

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah () said:
Islam initiated as something strange, and it would revert to its (old position) of being strange. so good tidings for the stranger.
Sahih Muslim 145

“We must be willing and courageous to be a stranger.” (Shaykh Khalid Yasin:)

And now, I would love to hear from you:

Leave your comment: 
1) What experiences have you had with “the Handshake” situation?
2) What other stories can you share where they wanted you to compromise to “fit in”, but your values tell you to “stand out”.

Check out our Store:

Ilm Power – Shared Diversity – Bag
Halal Healthy Recipes – Breakfast Edition – by Shared Diversity

Brand voice and copywriting basics with Eman Ismail, founder of Inkhouse Writing

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Eman Ismail is the founder of Inkhouse Writing, mother and a self-taught copywriter!

In this episode, Eman shares with us her top secrets for finding your brand voice and start crafting compelling copy.

She shares with us basics into writing copy and making the best out of tools like blogs, social media posts and more. With the focus on how to sell your products online, she makes it easy to understand what you need to know about copywriting and storytelling as a content creator or business owner. She also shares her very unique insights into being a mother and entrepreneur and how she prioritizes her ambitions.

Exclusive Bonus:

Make sure to download Eman’s Top Tips for Copywriters!


Comment below!

  1.  What is your definition of success
  2. How are you planning to get there?

Leave it down in the comments, and share your diversity with us!

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Check out our Store:

Ilm Power – Shared Diversity – Bag
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