Keep Your Hands to Yourself: On Body Autonomy, Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Double Standards
The Tone Up

Keep Your Hands to Yourself: On Body Autonomy, Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Double Standards

The irony is we wear a mask, maintain social distancing and avoid shaking hands because of the pandemic but when a Muslim woman avoids handshaking for personal or religious reasons, the hypocrisy jumps out.

– Oyinkansola Fadiji

Statement: A definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing. E.g I am a Muslim woman and I don’t shake non-relative men.

Complicated: Consisting of many interconnecting parts or elements; intricate. E.g  “if you do it, will you die”?  It is utterly disrespectful for anyone to ask this when they’ve been told one’s faith does not permit them to do this.

What really is the obsession with touching and shaking hands with people who have no interest in doing so with you? Hugging people that do not want to hug you?  Where is the understanding that tolerance is guarding the right of other people whilst exerting yours? Why do we tilt more towards force than understanding? Where does the refusal to evolve leave us all? Where is the activism in seeking the rights of some and denying that of others? When we make conclusions like “niqabis” have no right to education because they have their face partially covered”, how is it any different from “blacks have no right to education because of the colour of their skin”? I mean we are progressive until we are not. What is this power someone else’s choice has on the fragility of our ego? Why is NO considered offensive, insufficient, inadequate?  WHO advises that we stop shaking hands, that we wear a mask and keep a social distance because of the pandemic. The irony is we wear a mask, maintain social distancing and avoid shaking hands because of the pandemic but when a Muslim woman avoids handshaking for personal or religious reasons, the hypocrisy jumps out.

I mean it must be the audacity of the responder. The shock of who is this woman not to shake hands with me? We know that forceful penetration is rape. But what does one call a forced handshake? A forced hug? Or a forced kiss? In my opinion, unwillingness is the common denominator regardless of the action. And as such, it is just as shameful, as debasing and as ugly as rape. And this is how we unintentionally encourage rape culture. Everyone should have the autonomy of their bodies and their parts. Everyone’s body autonomy should be inviolable. I should be able to unilaterally decide who I give access to my body and who I don’t. If I say I don’t shake hands with the opposite sex, the appropriate response is not why? The only valid response is to RESPECT this. 

But I have heard laughable responses like “It means your friendship is conditional If your male friends cannot shake you“. My question thus is, what is wrong with conditional? For even God’s love is conditional; subject to monotheism. University admission is conditional; subject to meeting the requirements. The very purpose to which all this unfolded is conditional; subject to having fulfilled the requirements. 

We know that forceful penetration is rape. But what does one call a forced handshake? A forced hug? Or a forced kiss? In my opinion, unwillingness is the common denominator regardless of the action. And as such, it is just as shameful, as debasing and as ugly as rape.

– Oyinkansola Fadiji

It is the law”. Well, I shall leave the debate of the existence of said law to constitutional juggernauts. What I however have to say on the matter is borrowed from St. Augustine who once said “An unjust law is no law“. Keeping it a buck, it was the law at some time to kill twins in the South-south region of Nigeria. And people who owned slaves were not breaking any known laws at some period in history. Segregation was also the law at some period in some countries. I cite these laws because they were eventually upturned to cater for a multi-dimensional society intended to foster inclusiveness and unity. If indeed, this is the law, then it should be revised to fit the peculiarity of our society; a multi-religious society. 

Every four years, we swear in a new president. It is the recognition, exercise and respect of faith that informs giving them the choice to choose the holy book they wish to swear by. This practice is not different in the court of law. An accused person, despite the crime he may be standing trial for is accorded similar respect. Does it thus beg to ask why erudite men who are supposedly responsible for moulding society based on knowledge will willfully deny me my rights? And will do so disrespectfully and debasingly?  In a Federal government-funded institution at that? As a young girl, I attended secondary school with boys who wore cornrows because their parents and them at the time, were Sango worshippers. There were also boys with massive dreadlocks because their faith required them to not put a blade to their head. The doors of learning were not shut to them. They were welcomed despite their faith. In my opinion, this is religious intolerance exemplified.

As a Muslim woman, when I say I don’t shake hands with men who aren’t family, it is offensive to compare me to known terrorists. My resolve/action puts no one at risk, has not and will not endanger lives. Comparing me to Boko-Haram is wicked dishonesty considering that as a thirty-two-year-old, I started getting western education formally when I was six months old. Insinuating that religion does not matter much to me for studying science is a display of ignorance on the subject as Islamic civilization documents many Muslims whose names I only know have courted, studied and practised science. From astronomy to mathematics to medicine. From Ibn al-Haytham to Al-Biruni to Ibn-Sina.

In the present day, many renowned Muslim scientists keep studying, teaching and practising science; In medicine and in life sciences, globally and nationally.  From Tipu Aziz to Rozina Ali to Hina Shahid to Adeleke Monsuru to Mogaji Hammed. And just why are we in Nigeria and worrying about what a hypothetical white man I have yet to meet will think if he arrives and I refuse to shake hands with him. To give credit where due, no one respects and disrespects civil liberties like a white man. Fortunately, I have known only the population that does. The few times I’ve gotten racially slurred at, it was not by a white person. No white man has ever extended his hands to me seeing that I don a hijab. Alas! they are taught this as part of ethics according to the Princeton website. Considering we are a society that copies so much, that is something we should totally copy.

I have always wondered about the type of person I want to be. From the mundane to the serious, I have often pondered. I know I want to be successful, I want wealth, I want to be revered for doing kickass science. But the actual type of individual I want to be, I did not quite figure out beyond being good. And I honestly feel it is a good place to start.

However, the ugly ambush that was the highlight of what is a memorable day purported me to define to a T who I really want to become. Regardless of where I may settle. The person I want to be, the person I will keep striving to be, is someone who never ever denies the rights of others. I want to create spaces where everything, especially differences are respected. My right, as that of everyone, ends the minute exacting mine/yours denies that of the other. When I die, I want to be remembered as standing for something. I want my tombstone to read Oyinkansola; we knew where she stood. And standing for what is right, singly, cannot make it wrong. 


Oyinkansola Fadiji

Oyinkansola Fadiji is a cage rattler; a purr girl who is most at peace with donning pants, living unassumingly and being a nomad.

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