A TikTok video showing a Muslim student refusing to shake the hand of the headteacher of his school has gone viral, with the teacher’s response on respecting Norwegian customs prompting praise, outcry, and discussion from commentators on social media.
The short clip, first uploaded to TikTok at the end of June, shows a graduation ceremony at a lower secondary school in Oslo. A teen boy is called to receive his diploma, but pointedly refuses to shake his female head’s hand as he snatches the waiting document from her.
The woman then grabs the boy’s left arm in what appears to be an attempt to either retrieve the diploma from him, or have him engage in a handshake. During the altercation, the boy repeatedly switches the diploma from his left to right hand, not allowing his principal to take the document back.
The headmistress wastes no time and immediately turns to the audience to give an impromptu lecture to the crowd present at the ceremony.
“Guys, we live in Norway. We can’t have it like this, I mean it,” she says. “And you parents … we live in Norway. You will have to work with Norwegian women or else you won’t succeed in Norway,” the school head continues, likely referring to the recent legislation passed in the country which will require large and medium-sized companies to have a minimum of 40% female representation on their boards.
“Your parents, you have to tackle this. It is expected that you would shake my hand, as an employer.”
According to Kathrin Jebsen Moore for The Daily Sceptic, the school where the incident took place is apparently one of the “most ethnically diverse” schools in Norway.
The video was shared to Twitter by a pro-Islam account which praised the teen boy for refusing to touch a woman, confirming in the replies that he felt women were “inferior,” but furious debate was quickly sparked.
“This is Norway. One needs to respect a country’s culture and norms, just like I do if I visit your country. If not, then he should leave Norway and go back to his own country,” one Norwegian Twitter user said in response to the video.
Comments in defense of the teen’s behavior have equated the woman’s actions to harassment, with some suggesting the boy should sue the school.
Criticism of the headteacher has made it offline, with Aftenposten, Norway’s biggest broadsheet, publishing an open letter signed by several Muslim activists, including actress Iman Meskini and model Rawdah Mohamed.
“What should have been a joyous graduation ceremony at a school in Oslo last week, was turned into a humiliating affair when the audience was subjected to an aggressive demonstration of power from the school leadership,” the authors, all hijab-clad women, wrote. The rest of the letter condemns the teacher’s actions as “ethnocentrism” and “cultural chauvinism.”
This is not the first time that a clash between Muslim students and their western teachers has garnered global attention and debate.
As previously reported by The Publica, a public school in Edmonton, Canada became the subject of international attention after a teacher was caught berating Muslim students in her class for skipping “pride activities.”
Audio of the interaction was spread on social media in which a teacher at Londonderry School was heard yelling at her Muslim students and telling them that they “don’t belong” in Canada.
Her outrage was apparently caused by the fact that some of them did not attend the school’s LGBTQ-themed activities to mark Pride Month.
In a statement provided to The Publica, the district stated that they were aware of the recording, and were “taking steps to address the situation.”