A simple handshake has touched off a controversy that promises to highlight the cultural divide between the Western and Muslim worlds. When First Lady Michelle Obama shook hands with Indonesia's communication minister Tifatul Sembiring yesterday, the act was probably meant as a friendly greeting. Sembiring didn't take it that way though, later telling followers on Twitter that he did his best to dodge the handshake.
The Obama's visit has ignited a debate about women's rights in the world's most populous Muslim nation, according The Telegraph. Sembiring's protest demonstrates the difficult task that President Obama and his entourage face as they seek to extend the olive branch of peace to the Muslim world. Learning to navigate the often complex social customs and norms of a foreign country is a key part of diplomacy.
Of course, it's possible that Michelle Obama knew exactly what she was doing when she shook Sembiring's hand. After all, she is known as a strong advocate for women's rights around the world.
Video of the handshake indicates that there may not much to fuss over after all. It clearly shows Sembiring enthusiastically shaking the First Lady's hand. Maybe he's not a complete sexist after all!
Article Â©2010 David Anderson for Gather.com. All rights reserved.