DIE WELT (Germany) AL ARABIYA (U.A.E)
BERLIN - Call it the, "high-five heard "round the world." The simple sporty gesture, exchanged between German Parliament Member Claudia Roth and Alireza Sheikhattar, the Iranian Ambassador to Germany, has set off a wave of controversy.
Through a spokeswoman, Roth, co-chair of Germany's Green Party, said she reacted out of politeness to Sheikhattar's raised hand during a pause at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. But now that a video has emerged of the exchange, both are in hot water over the greeting. According to the Arab news channel Al Arabiya, critics in Iran are accusing Sheikhattar of having offended the laws of Islam for having touched the hand of a woman, Germany's Die Welt reports.
A spokesman for Ambassador Sheikhattar said that the gesture was “a mistake” – the Ambassador had intended to give Roth a friendly wave and was then “taken totally by surprise by her gesture.”
Devout Muslims never shake a woman’s hand, although the Koran does not expressly forbid men and women from doing so. Right after the incident, an embassy spokesman said: "In principle, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambassador never shakes a woman’s hand, nor has Ambassador Sheikhattar ever shaken Ms Roth’s hand before."
Video of the encounter shows the beaming 60-year-old ambassador not only holding out his hand but accepting Roth’s gesture without discernible irritation.
But the German politician is also facing criticism from her own supporters, Die Welt reports. Roth had explained the gesture by saying she'd been in contact with the ambassador by letter to ask if his government would allow Iranian film director Jafar Panahi to travel to the Berlinale film festival. However, on Internet forum some have accused her of shaking the hand of a “mass murderer” – a reference to Ambassador Sheikhattar’s alleged human rights abuses when he was governor of Iran’s Kurdish areas in the early 1980s.