Jump to main content

Becoming German with a handshake


Becoming German with a handshake

It is not easy to become a German citizen. The naturalisation test contains questions that more than 90% of Germans would not be able to answer ("Where did Hoffmann von Fallersleben write the Deutschlandlied?"). Respect, therefore, for all those who pass the test.

Unfortunately, this respect was completely forfeited by a Lebanese radiologist who studied medicine in Germany, completed his specialist training and has lived in Germany for over 20 years. He had passed the examination and fulfilled all other requirements and was present at the small ceremony in the district administration office where the certificate was ceremoniously handed over. The ceremony, and thus the naturalisation is a congratulatory handshake by the naturalisation officer and the simultaneous presentation of the certificate.

Surprisingly for the doctor, it is not a male but a female civil servant who approaches him. He refused to shake hands for allegedly religious reasons; the woman - he would later argue in the administrative proceedings - was of a different sex and thus per se threatened the man with sexual temptation, or immoral behaviour, to which he did not want to be subject.

On behalf of all normal-thinking people, the official should be kissed on the feet for having the presence of mind to withdraw the certificate. This did not conclude the naturalisation procedure.

The Mannheim Administrative Court then had to deal with the claim for naturalisation of the radiologist and, in its judgement of 20 August 2020 (12 S 629/19), explained in great detail, among other things, the handshake in German society as a "non-verbal greeting/farewell ritual" - but also, of course, the degrading role image of women in the applicant's mindset - and dismissed the and dismissed the case.

One can only congratulate the judges and think "wow, that was close".