Three wrestlers in Germany have been disqualified and given 32-0 automatic losses in their bouts for refusing to shake the female referee’s hand because of their strict Muslim beliefs.
The incident took place during the last round of matches of the wrestling league in the German states of Bavaria and Hesse.
Eight wrestlers from sports club RWG Hanau-Erlensee travelled to the sports hall of AC Bavaria Goldbach for the season’s final match which was supposed to be a low-key affair as they had already clinched the championship.
During the match, three wrestlers from Hanau-Erlensee refused to shake the hand of female referee Ramona Scherer.
As a a result, Scherer disqualified all three wrestlers, which resulted in Hanau-Erlensee losing the match automatically against AC Bavaria Goldbach by 32-0.
Scherer told local media that the problems already started before the match.
She said: “It all started with the weigh-ins. When I wanted to control their fingernails, three wrestlers flinched.”
The three wrestlers, who are champions of the state of Hesse in their class, said they were confronted for the first time with a female combat leader and said that their religion does not allow them to shake hands with a female who is not a family member.
According to local media, the three wrestlers originally hail from Bulgaria and the Russian republic of Chechnya.
Bulgarian wrestler Sunay Hamidov is one of the three wrestlers. He moved in 2010 to Germany and said that for the last six years he has tried to abide strictly to Islam.
He said: “I did not want to be disrespectful, but only to honour the husband of the match referee.”
Hamidov said he “did not want to comment” on whether next time he would again refuse to shake hands.
RWG Hanau Erlensee coach and honorary president Toni Albert said he was disappointed by the incident.
Albert said: “I am ashamed, am very disappointed.”
He said that he has not heard from the three Muslim wrestlers since the incident.
Chairman Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany also criticised the wrestlers for refusing to shake hands.
Mazyek said: “It is important to know the different cultural practices. Otherwise it can happen that what one side understand as respect, the other side regards as disrespectful.”