Different views on the Iranian non-handshakes

There are contrasting views on the Iranian handshake incident this week at NZ Herald.

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Labour’s no-shake ‘ballsy’ and deserves respect

Two men deserve to be singled out for services to women this week.

They’re Labour MPs Kieran McAnulty and Rino Tirikatene.

On Thursday, their fellow Labour MP Jo Luxton found herself in an humiliating situation. She was told just before a Select Committee that an Iranian delegation due to appear at it would not be shaking her hand. Because she’s a woman. She was told not even to extend her hand to them.

So the lads – likely acting on gut instinct given the speed with which things unfolded – joined her in solidarity and also refused to shake the hands of the Iranian delegation.

That, right there, is a minor diplomatic incident. It has the ability to cause offence. You know it is the case because media inquiries were immediately routed through to the Prime Minister’s office.

Well boo hoo to the Iranians. They deserve it. And good on the Labour lads. Fist bump to both of them.

With their gut-instinct reaction, these two men stood up for women in New Zealand. Their act told the Iranians that bigotry has no place here. It told them that our people reckon women are equal to men.

In contrast – Weekend Herald editorial: Iran’s no-handshake rule did not deserve a rude response

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.

That sounds like a good way of greeting to me. Better than the sometimes macho jousting of a handshake.

I’d prefer it to a hongi in some circumstances too, that really involves in getting into people’s personal space.”The hongi is performed by grasping the other person’s hand, as with a handshake, leaning forward and gently pressing noses – nose to nose, breath to breath. Some, but not everyone, may also kiss women on the cheek.”

And I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to a squish from my gnarly old nose.

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.

I think that customs should be considered whichever country people are in. Finding a form of greeting that is mutually acceptable shouldn’t be that difficult.

And talking of when in Aotearoa do what Māori  do, I wonder how many visitors feeling uncomfortable pōwhiri?

A pōwhiri usually begins outside the marae with a wero (challenge). A warrior from the tangata whenua (hosts) will challenge the manuhiri (guests), checking to see whether they are friend or foe. He may carry a taiaha (spear-like weapon), and will lay down a token  – often a small branch – for the visitors to pick up to show they come in peace.

A spear wielding, grimacing and vocal approach may not be everyone’s kapu of tī – I wouldn’t be surprised if some people find it quite intimidating.


  1. David

     /  February 25, 2018

    There is a huge reporting bias in NZ where we have to be tolerant of Islam and its practices and in the same papers the Exclusive Bretheren, Tamaki,s crowd and Gloriavale are all made out to be molesting/greedy fruit loops to be ridiculed.
    Personally all religions should be held up and laughed at equally.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  February 25, 2018

      This isn’t about religion. This is about appropriate responses to a group of misogynists… who happen to be Iranian (a country not a religion).

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 25, 2018

        Would you think that women have the right to say no to what they consider inappropriate physical contact ?

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  February 26, 2018

          Yes I do Kitty – women should of course have the right to say no to whatever they consider is inappropriate, whether it’s touching fondling, arranged marriages, weils, genital mutilation, etc.

          But that’s not what David’s saying. He’s off on a tangent blathering about religion – which isn’t at all relevant to the post.

          Aaand before anyone says that Iran = Islam, that’s a false equivalence.

          Iran’s a country that mandates the recognition of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism in its constitution no less. Moreover, Iran mandates a political role for religious minorities. Armenian Christians, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians all have representation in the Iranian parliament.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 26, 2018

            Yes, and it’s an ignorant rant. Countries like Iran have civilisations that go back ????? years.

            My point was that it goes both ways. To these men, physical contact between the sexes is inappropriate and disrespectful to the women being touched.

            For some reason, it is acceptable for women but not for men in many (ignorant) people’s minds, and the MPs are being culturally insensitive, making this into something that it isn’t and looking very stupid.

  2. Chuck Bird

     /  February 25, 2018

    What if one of the Iranians brought along a couple of 9 year old wives?

    • What if a New Zealand delegation took along a couple of mongrel Mob members in full regalia?

      What if…

    • Gezza

       /  February 25, 2018

      They’re not likely to be Iranian diplomats, to be fair. That sort of thing, in countries where it does happen, usually occurs out in the villages in the wop wops, where the populations are uneducated & ignorant & run by old men mullas or headmen & where it’s often been part of the local tribal culture for centuries. Unfortunately the Koran & Sunnah do support it though.

  3. Corky

     /  February 25, 2018

    The Herald is concentrating on the immediate incident ( the handshake, non handshake).
    What about the cultural baggage behind each incident? We know for example the non handshake towards women is just an extension of a repressive culture Islam has towards women in general. Our culture once again shows its superiority for making women equals.

    But what can you expect from the Herald? If fact, what can you expect from Muslim women?

    • phantom snowflake

       /  February 25, 2018

      Corky, your overnight transformation from misogynist to feminist (transparent though it is) is just too funny!!!!

      • Corky

         /  February 25, 2018

        Wouldn’t have a clue what you are on about ( as usual). But, have you anything to add to this debate that isn’t vacuous?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 25, 2018

          No, Corky, you seldom do have a clue about what other people are saying. It’s good of you to be honest about this.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 25, 2018

            Phantom. do you take it that Corks is asking you not to add anything that isn’t vacuous because he wouldn’t be able to understand it ?

            In fact, Corky is showing his bigotry and ignorance about the whole issue. (as usual)

            • phantom snowflake

               /  February 25, 2018

              I’m going to take it as an invitation for further vacuity.
              From UrbanDictionary.com:
              a derogatory term for someone of lower intelligence, usually biologically rooted

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 25, 2018

              Well, Corky does literally mean made of or resembling cork.

  4. duperez

     /  February 25, 2018

    Presumably the visiting delegation wouldn’t shake hands with Ms Luxton because women are not equal, not worthy, it’s not the done thing or some other complex reason. No offence meant to her that’s just the way it is with them.

    Isn’t it reasonable for Kieran McAnulty and Rino Tirikatene to not shake hands with Iranian men because they see them as not equal, not worthy, it’s not the done thing or some other complex reason?

    Maybe the action of the MPs is the harbinger of a new cultural and protocol norm – New Zealand politicians don’t shake hands with Iranian delegations. No offence meant, that’s just the way it is.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 25, 2018

      The MPs were making idiots of themselves and making New Zealand look ridiculous.

      The no physical contact between mambers of the opposite sex has nothing to do with sexism. It is – as I tire of saying – to do with it being unacceptable to both sexes. Only members of a family or husbands and wives do this.It is considered to be DISrespect to women.

      It is impossible to believe that the Labour MPs don’t have access to Google or know any Muslims. It would have been easy to to stop them making utter prats of themselves.

      • duperez

         /  February 25, 2018

        The Labour MPs have access to Google and probably know Muslims. Hopefully they also have access to my opinion above and implement it. Nothing to do with sexism but it just being unacceptable to shake hands with an Iranian.

        If they do so it could be considered as DISrespect to New Zealanders and making utter prats of themselves.

        Such behavioural incidentals, on both sides, are arbitrary constructs.

        As is the interpretation of them and the consequences. Who knows, any delegate in the visiting party might have faced the equivalent of the sports ‘red card’ for shaking hands. Or beheading. Such is the way of the weird world we live in.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 25, 2018

          They will just think that in NZ, we haven’t enough to think about, and they would be right. They will also think that some NZers are pig-ignorant and making a major issue out of a tiny one.

  5. Alan Riding

     /  March 12, 2018

    McAnulty just has his eye on power. He is a true NZ macho berk. He is a defender of feminism only in so much as it will gain him favourable regard and maybe some votes. Always raising the public profile. Diplomacy fail !!