Labour MP Jo Luxton, chair of the primary production select committee, did the sensible thing when advised not to attempt a handshake when she met a delegation from Iran. As a woman, Luxton said later, the situation made her uncomfortable, however she understood she had to deal with cultural differences.
Two male colleagues, Labour MPs Kieran McAnulty and Rino Tirikatene, were not as diplomatic. They refused to shake hands with the delegation if a woman could not. Were they right?
Some will apply the principle, When in Rome, and say anyone whose religion frowns on physical contact with a women who is not his wife should nevertheless observe Western customs when in a Western country. But that suggests this custom is as important to our culture as religious rules are in theirs. Is it really?
A man in Iran has a different way of greeting a woman, with a hand to his chest and a nod or bow. Many Western women might find that preferable to a handshake that, between men, is supposed to be firm.
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Foreign Minister Winston Peters was in no doubt Luxton did the right thing and her male colleagues were in the wrong. "You've got to have regard for cultural sensitivities around the world ... and any member of Parliament would be expected to know that," he said.
There is a simple test. Was the Iranian greeting rude to Luxton? It sounds graceful and respectful. Were our male MPs rude to the Iranians? It sounds like it. They need to grow up.