Sweden at odds over gesture of greeting

Swedish Green Party politician Yasri Khan resigned last week after triggering a public outcry when he refused to shake hands with a female reporter on the grounds that it contravened his Muslim faith. The Swedish press joins the public debate about the country's values.

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Expressen (SE) /

Conflicting values

Khan put his hand to his heart in a sign of greeting instead of holding it out to the journalist. Whether this gesture fits in with the Swedish canon of values has not been adequately discussed yet, the liberal tabloid Expressen writes:

“The debate about Yasri Khan's gesture of greeting makes it clear that Swedish society's opinions, norms and values are far from being clearly defined. When push comes to shove it turns out that there is very little tolerance indeed for deviations. Unfortunately we weren't really aware of this fact, and haven't adequately reflected on these values. It is high time we did. A country of immigration like Sweden must first of all know itself. What makes us who we are? What should be seen as a private matter and which values are negotiable? And what choice do we make when two values come into conflict with each other, for example diversity and equality?”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Multicultural society needs a common denominator

The values of Swedish society must be defended, admonishes the liberal daily Sydsvenskan:

“There should never be any doubt about which values Swedish society represents and is built on. A multicultural society must have its common denominator. … This is about the secular character of the state and public institutions. It's about democratic behaviour and respect for the opinions of others. … And encircling all this there must be room for compromise. Beyond that everyone should be able to do as they please, wear veils or mini-skirts, shake hands or greet each other with their hand on their heart. It's that simple - and that difficult.”