At Odds with Feminism? Muslim Masculinities in the Swedish “No Handshake” Debate in Newspapers

  • Joakim JohanssonEmail author
  • Mehrdad Darvishpour


Can Muslims, and in particular Muslim male politicians, retain their Muslim identities and customs in predominantly non-Muslim countries while simultaneously “buying-in” to feminism? What challenges/critiques can Muslim feminists offer to “white feminism” in order to make it more intersectional? The aim of this chapter is to study the making of Muslim masculinity and gender equality in the “no handshake” debate that took place in Sweden in 2016 when the refusal of Green Party politician Yasri Khan to greet women by shaking hands gained some notoriety. Yasri Khan represents a catalyst in the debate about the meaning of gender equality, and hence, a political masculinity acting as an agent of change. Based on articles in the four major Swedish daily newspapers, a thematic analysis is performed. This suggests that Yasri Khan challenges stereotypical images of Muslims often reproduced by non-Muslim Westerners. He combines Muslim customs and beliefs with a commitment to tolerance and gender equality. He identifies as Swedish, Muslim, “soft” and as a vulnerable man. Thus, the findings highlight the possibility of positive change in Muslim masculinity. However, reproducing the heterosexual matrix, the masculinity of Khan contained retrogressive elements as well. This limits the potential for positive change in contrast to the political masculinities of Muslim men who were critical of Khan’s ‘no handshake’ in non-heteronormative ways and thereby clearer in their commitment to gender equality. Muslim feminism points to the possibility of combining a strong religious commitment with a commitment to gender equality.


Political representation Gender Muslim masculinity Islam Gender equality Feminism Political masculinities Change 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Political ScienceMälardalen University ESTVästeråsSweden
  2. 2.Department of Social Work, EskilstunaMälardalen University ESTVästeråsSweden

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