New Green MP Golriz Ghahraman claims an Iranian agricultural delegation's refusal to shake hands with a female Labour MP was not disrespectful.

In an opinion piece, Ghahraman said while she had spoken out about the oppressive Iranian regime in the past, Muslims "peacefully observing" law of not looking at or touching women was different.

Ghahraman, whose background is in human rights law, came to New Zealand from Iran as a child refugee.

Some Labour MPs took offence yesterday after they were told prior to a meeting with an Iranian delegation that it wouldn't be appropriate for MP Jo Luxton, deputy chair of the Primary Production select committee, to approach the visitors to shake their hand.


Ghahraman said while women were ordered to dress conservatively in accordance with the Quran, there was also an obligation on Islamic men not to "ogle or touch them in any way".

"This is to provide safety and respect for women interacting with men. Whether or not we agree with these rules, whether they are paternalistic of unduly restrictive and need 'modernising' is a question for practising Muslims," she wrote today in a piece published by Newshub.

"So while in western culture refusing to shake hands is a huge sign of disrespect, in the Muslim world touching strangers of the opposite sex is hugely disrespectful and a breach of Islamic law. "

Luxton yesterday said she felt uncomfortable with the rule but understood she would be dealing with situations involving cultural differences.

But Labour's Rino Tirikatene called it an affront, and Kieran McAnulty said it was unacceptable.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said he expected the committee would prepare a report for the Prime Minister.

"You can be polite as you possibly can but it does not require a handshake," he said yesterday.