is it really necessary – to say hello
Frankly, most of the time, I’m in a hurry or talking. And, when it comes to someone of another culture, who knows how they’ll receive my greeting.
But if I’m honest, walking past someone without greeting them, is an offense in any culture.
Extending a hand in greeting dates back to ancient times; it says, “See, no weapon, I wish you well!”
Of course, it’s not that simple.
I have good Christian friends who believe that all Muslims are potential terrorists. So, when they walk by a Muslim without so much as a “hello,” their intentions are clear, “I disregard you as a person.”
My Muslim friends are not obtuse; they sense the contempt and take to heart the shunning.
it is a form of disrespect that dishonors God in any language
Similarly, I have Muslim friends who believe that all Jews are fanatics bent on their destruction; and Jewish friends who believe the same about Muslims. The legacy of harbored pain, anger and resentment dishonors the God we call upon to save us.
Perpetuating offense is how we maintain a position of superiority for our own tribe; we are better than those others. The us/them thinking is easily translated into a shun that withholds common greetings. People who desire a legacy that is better than the current state of affairs may not sit in seats of power, but to neglect our own power to change the world where we walk and live, does a disservice.
we can change the world,
one “hello” at a time
When it comes to extending a hand, generally there are fewer issues with same-sex greetings. Traditional Jews do not touch those outside the family; to touch someone of an opposite sex is prohibited as a sign of intimacy (Shomer Negiah). Similarly, conservative Muslims (Shias) believe that any contact with a non-Muslim will make them spiritually unclean, and thus requires ritual purification afterward.
In many less strict Middle Eastern cultures, its customary for women and men of the same sex to greet one another with a kiss on each check. And, making eye contact shows trustworthiness. The exception being for women, who may be considered flirtatious; socially averting ones eyes so as not to unintentionally send a “come hither” message is best; but for business a direct, “this is work,” stare is well understood.
If you’re uncertain about the appropriate way to greet, don’t shun, ask, “What is the appropriate way to greet one another in your culture?”
Similarly, if you’re being approached by someone with an outstretched hand, and this doesn’t work for you, it’s helpful if you say, "I don't shake hands for religious reasons.”
Learning about one another's tribe, about other's culture, is a complete good.
Nelson Mandela rightly reminds us that learning how to shun others because of their religion is something we learn - and, if we can learn that, we can learn how to love.
You and I, we can change the world, one “hello” at a time.
I have an editorial comment or found a mistake.