Cultural confusion over Qatari sheikh’s no-handshake with CWC final’s female officials

February 15 – A sexist show of disrespect or a storm in a teacup over a cultural norm?

A social media debate has broken out in the wake of Bayern Munich’s 1-0 win over Tigres at last week’s Club World Cup in Qatar when Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani declined to shake hands with two female assistant referees having done so with the male referee.

When Edina Alves Batista and Neuza Back approached the Sheikh at the post-final ceremony, they were denied a handshake or even a fist bump.

Some reports suggested that because of his religious beliefs, the Sheikh, younger brother of Qatar ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was forbidden to shake hands with a woman.

As a result, when it came time to give Batista and Back their medals for officiating the game, Sheikh Joaan didn’t offer his hand in congratulations, with the  two women reportedly having been given instructions by the match organizers to walk directly past.

Many have pointed out online that the Sheikh’s reluctance to even fist-bump the two officials can be interpreted as a sign of respect in Qatari culture, where it is considered a significant cultural faux-pas to touch a woman who is not one’s wife.

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