Auckland Uni Sacks Staff Member for Trying to Shake Hands with Muslim Student (plus Tweets)

Things are slightly better today. We won the fourth one-dayer (cricket) against England yesterday! It was a really exciting game. Ross Taylor was amazing – back to his best. His outstanding performance makes him every Kiwi cricket fan’s hero today. I’ve put several tweets on his feat in the “Sports Tweets” below. So there’s a veneer of happiness in my life for a little while.

Not everything is coming up roses in New Zealand though. This morning, there was a story in the New Zealand Herald: ‘University of Auckland staff member fired for trying to shake hands with Muslim student‘.

This is the full text of the article:

A University of Auckland senior staff member has been fired after trying to shake hands with a female Muslim student.

The ousted staff member then filed a complaint of sexual discrimination against her after she refused to shake his hand.

A newsletter from vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon directed to all university staff said the academic had tried to shake her hand with the knowledge that it would be inappropriate.

“He did this knowing that she would consider it culturally or religiously inappropriate to have physical contact with a man who was not a close relative,” the statement read.

“When she declined to shake his hand, he made a complaint of sexual discrimination against her.”

A formal investigation had established his behaviour had amounted to “serious misconduct”.

McCutcheon said he had delayed advising staff of what happened in a bid to protect the privacy of the people involved.

“However, I believe it is important for all members of our community to understand that such behaviours have no place in the University and that if they do occur I will not hesitate to authorise appropriate investigatory and disciplinary procedures.”

I hope the staff member takes this issue to the Employment Tribunal. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here, but to me it seems that losing your job in this situation is an over-reaction. I smell outside pressure on the university.

In New Zealand it’s against the law to discriminate on the basis of religion, and it can be argued that is what the staff member who lost his job was doing. There’s no doubt he was wrong to try and force this student to shake his hand. But I think there’s more to it.

Although many think of New Zealand as the most secular country in the world, that secularism isn’t formally backed up in the law. We don’t have a constitution, there is no legal separation of church and state, religious institutions don’t pay taxes, most religious schools get state funding, there’s religious instruction in state schools, and we even still have a blasphemy law. Therefore, situations like this can occur and there’s little or no protection when they do.

Many, perhaps most, New Zealanders would say that the staff member shouldn’t have made a sexual discrimination complaint. Whether or not they agree with the staff member, it’s more about not rocking the boat. New Zealanders aren’t litigious. We tend NOT to make a stand. We’re a small country and our strength is in working together – playing as a team.

We have two people – a male senior staff member and a female devout Muslim student. We know nothing more about them. All we know about the situation is that the staff member offered his hand to the student to shake and she refused because he’s not mahram (a close male family member).

There is actually nothing in Islam that forbids men and women shaking hands whether related or not. From Islam Online:

…if we investigate the sahih (sound) Hadiths that are narrated from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), we will conclude that the mere touching of hands between a man and a woman without desire or fear of temptation is not prohibited

The problem, as so often, is only if the the two people aren’t so old as to be sexually undesirable. But that’s not really relevant. As with all religions, different sects interpret scripture differently, and this women believes she shouldn’t shake hands with a non-mahram man.

And besides, no one should have to shake another person’s hand if they don’t want to, and they shouldn’t have to give a reason. (Though is seems clear that in this situation the reason was her religious beliefs.)

It sounds to me as if (and from comments on the NZARH Facebook website others agree) the staff member is a bit of an a$$hole who is known for being difficult. However, should that matter? You shouldn’t lose your job for being an a$$hole. If the behaviour is repeated and ongoing, and you’ve had written warnings to change, that would be different, but the report in the Herald indicates only one situation.

Another possible scenario that comes to mind (and I’m not the only one who’s thought of this one either) is that the student is an overseas student. One of New Zealand’s fastest growing export earners is education, and one of the fastest growing markets within that is Saudi Arabia. The university may be going out of its way not to upset Saudi authorities.

There is precedent for this supposition. Last year, six Saudi students were allowed to pass a tertiary electrical course at Unitec (also in Auckland) despite it being proven they were cheating. They apparently submitted exactly similar written answers to exam questions, but were unable to answer the same questions verbally. It appears there may have been pressure from Saudi authorities to allow the students to pass. The lecturer resigned in protest.

Here’s what the New Zealand Herald had to say at the time:

Six Saudi Arabian students at Unitec have been allowed to pass an electrical course despite cheating in their final exam.

The students submitted almost identical answers to half of the questions in the exam, but could not answer one of the questions verbally after their cheating was discovered.

Four of the students included a marker’s comment from an earlier exam paper in their answer.

Their lecturer has resigned from Unitec in protest, saying the institution “places Saudi Arabian money ahead of the health and wellbeing of its staff”.

She said the seven Saudi students in her Level 4 course, which is a pre-requisite for an electrical engineering degree, “are worth $500,000 to Unitec over the next three years”.

About 100 of the 615 Saudis on student visas in New Zealand on April 1 were at Unitec.

Two officials from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Auckland attended a meeting on December 9 [2016] when Unitec’s then engineering department head David Nummy started an investigation into the case.

But Unitec rejected the lecturer’s claim that it refused to fail the students because it would have lost income from their fees. It said the decision to let the students pass the course was “in line with responses to previous instances of misconduct”.

“Unfortunately academic misconduct in assessment events is not uncommon,” Nummy wrote to the lecturer on January 30 [2017].

Whether or not the student’s reason for refusing to shake the staff member’s hand were because of her religion, she shouldn’t have had to do it. No one should have to touch anyone else if they don’t want to. However, to sack somebody for complaining about it is not a reasonable reaction. I suspect pressure from Saudi authorities on the university, and if that’s the case, it’s not acceptable.


Political Tweets

Most of you already know about this, but Vox has a great way of explaining things clearly and concisely. Also, many who don’t want to read articles about such things will watch a short video.


This is a great graphic of the 2016 presidential election. Instead of counties, it shows actual votes.
(Via Ann German.)


Everything you never wanted to know about the Trump family history.


Trump, of course, is ignoring this.


I’m not the only one who opposes Trump’s tariffs! 107 House Republicans are with me!


Pre-Mueller Time Tweets

This article is really long. I listened to the audio, which is easier than reading but takes even longer. However, it’s an excellent profile of Christopher Steele (of Steele dossier fame) and the events surrounding him. If you’re interested in this topic, you won’t regret taking the time to read or listen to this article. (Via Ann German.)


Naughty boy!


Another naughty boy …

Human Rights Tweets

A good analysis of the anti-Semitism in the leadership of the Women’s March by Egberto Willies.


WTF is Wrong with the World?

This new section was going to be called “WTF is Wrong with the USA,” but to be fair, the rest of us do unbelievable stuff too. However, the first entrant is from the USA – southern USA of course.

Whoever thought that a lynching was an appropriate theme for an elementary school gymnasium? And apparently because of “southern heritage” there’s a lot of vitriol from the majority who want to keep it!
(Via Ann German.)


Weather Tweets

Vanuatu is already suffering under this. Something to look out for next week fellow Kiwis!


Space Tweets

We’re going to get even more amazing pics of space!


Sports Tweets

Celebrating Ross Taylor!








Lego Tweets

A couple of projects Lego fans are trying to get Lego to take on. I’ll be including more of these in future.



Funny Tweets

Oh dear! (NSFW!)


Betty Bowers: brilliant as always …


Scenic Tweets

Beautiful city. Another place I’ve never been and want to go to.


Freshwater Tweets

This tweet is mainly about garden ponds, but there’s other stuff too such as grass snakes.


Marine Tweets

This is a disgrace!
(Via Ann German.)


Trigger Warning: Animal Predation

Octopuses are cool. But so are seals. And it’s a cool pic.


Creepy-Crawlies Tweets

A lovely mosquito?


Other Animals Tweets

It was signaled, and now it’s happened. Trophy hunters can now bring their tusks etc back to the US from Africa on a “case by case basis.” I don’t know what “case by case basis” means. Perhaps a donation to the re-elect Donald Trump campaign fund?


This is a b£oody huge sheep! We don’t get them like this in New Zealand, and we have millions – they outnumber people about 7-1. (It was more like 20-1 when I was a kid) Clever too!


More hedgehog cuteness. Note to blokes: just because it’s cute when a hedgehog does it, doesn’t mean it’s cute when you do it!


I give you the numbat!


Bird Tweets

That’s one smart bird!


Fascinating video of a vet repairing the wing of an injured owl.


There’s been an operation on the Antipodes Islands south of New Zealand to rid them of mice. The Department of Conservation recently returned to check on its success …


Dog Tweets

If this doesn’t make you go Awww, you’re completely heartless!


Cute pup.


Cat Tweets

And the cat lay down with the dog …


It keeps happening! The End of the World is nigh!


Kitty grows up. Isn’t this lovely?!


I hope it doesn’t have to wear that in front of other cats!


I want to snuggle it!


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21 Responses to “Auckland Uni Sacks Staff Member for Trying to Shake Hands with Muslim Student (plus Tweets)”

  1. Yes that fourth one-dayer was a splendid match. Ross Taylor seems to be even more dangerous when his mobility is restricted, like Gordon Greenidge back in the 1980s.

  2. Jenny Haniver says:

    Thanks for the link to Mrs. Betty Bowers. I’m an instant fan. The numbat is so beautiful. I was disgusted to learn about the reversal of the ban on elephant parts. I’d heard about it a couple of days ago, and the tweet you post is dated Mar. 5. This happened (purposefully?) during the early part of the furor over the tariffs, so it pretty much went by the board. I guess Trump’s sons couldn’t bear to be without their trophy tusks and ears and tails.

    I didn’t comment on your last post, but I certainly appreciate the concise and detailed exposition of the problems that Trump’s tariffs will cause. It’s handy to refer to.

  3. nicky says:

    This “Man behind the Trump Dossier” by Jane Mayer is absolutely stunning.
    It shows that Mr Comey’s F.B.I. (by ‘outing’ the investigations against Ms Clinton’s e-mails, but not against Mr Trump’s Russian conspiracy) basically handed Mr Trump the presidency….
    Again: stunning. Thanks for that.

    • It is good isn’t it? I wish more people, especially amongst those who believe the dodgy dossier/Clinton colluded crowd would read it. Unfortunately, it’s length makes that extremely unlikely.

      • nicky says:

        Hehehe, nice stab! But even if they could/would read it, it is unlikely it would change their minds. The ‘Clinton colluded crowd’ are like a religious cult, in no way will something as trivial as evidence convince them to change their stance.
        Did you notice that the dispicable Mr McConnell plays a nasty little cameo here too?

        • Yep. I used to think McConnell was just your average bad Republican, but the behaviour over Obama’s SCOTUS nominee made me take more notice of him. The more I see, the more I despise him. Your word for him is spot on!

          • nicky says:

            Yes, Mr Trump is a lumbering clown, but Mr McConnell is a shrewd, evil, and indeed despicable, operator. It is not just his totally unprecedented, spurious -and probably unconstitutional- blocking of even hearing Mr Garland. He’s transforming, deteriorating, the whole US justice system by populating it with partisan -often hardly qualified- judges.
            And now this blocking of a bi-partisan action, which was meant to par the Russian attack targeting the core of US democracy.

          • Yep. He doesn’t think of the greater principle of democracy. As long as it helps his side retain power, he doesn’t care.

            If you’re on Twitter, check out my feed from yesterday. There’s video of his wife Elaine Chao the Transportation Secretary at a hearing. It seems they’re two of a kind. (I can’t link it from this device, but I will in a few hours from my laptop. )

  4. nicky says:

    Great for Ross Taylor! Still quite a few runs behind Stephen Fleming, the ‘Great Leaver’ ( just leaving the ball if not suited to make a run, that demands steel nerves to do systematically, he was a real ‘cool cat’). I still think Brendon McCullum the greatest NZ cricketer of recent years, not so much because of his (outstanding) batting abilities, but for making NZ a ‘friendly’ and popular team. Before his captaincy the Black Caps were considered a grumpy and nagging team, he completely turned that around. A ‘Great Achievement’, greater than any batting tally or average.
    After SA and SL, NZ is now my favorite cricket team. 🙂
    [SA appears to do well now against OZ, having lost the first test (by a whopping 118 runs), they really need to win this one in the 4 test series, if they want to win the series. They are 153 for 2 now, having only lost opener and newby Aidan Markram (LBW) and ‘night watchman’ Kagiso Rabada (a young bowler, out for 29!). Trailing the Wallabies by only 90 runs, with 8 wickets in hand in their first innings. I’m confident!].

    • nicky says:

      At stumps the second day SA lead by a meagre 20 runs. But still 3 wickets in hand and still AB De Villiers (one of the greatest extant batsmen in the world*) at the crease. AB is capable of anything.
      *[Strangely, very surprisingly, he does not figure in the top ten batsmen in tests, but ranks no 2 – after Virat Khohli- in ODI’s. If I had to compose a ‘dream test team’, he would definitely be in]

    • By the time I see this you guys have surely won! Good on you.

      NZ, otoh, failed abysmally in the 5th one-dayer against England. I’m glad I forgot to watch it. I did remember around what should have been c. the 40th over of the 2nd innings, and there was nothing there. So I waited until the 6 o’clock news to find out what happened. England got the total we set them in the 32nd over! Embarrassing!

      • nicky says:

        Well, dont tell me about embarassing, SA did win the test series against India 2-1, but then proceeded to lose the ODI series 1-5, losing their world nr1 ODI team ranking in the process. The only positive is that SA still remains unbeaten when playing in pink.

          • nicky says:

            At the end of their first innings SA lead by 139, AB not out for 125*. When he gets going it is as if he plays a different game to the others, so inventive and classy. Still can’t believe he’s only ranked nr 12. Admittedly he comes from a spat of pretty bad form, but I hope he’s back.

          • Looking good! I hope today sees him continue that form.

            It’s scary how they can sometimes change a lot overnight. Is the morning wicket a bit damp in SA at this time of year?

          • nicky says:

            The Proteas won by 6 wickets. AB was out for 28, trapped by a Wiley Lyon. The first time in this test series (was run out or not out) a bowler got him. Rabada, our best bowler since Steyn is injured again, is out. He ‘shouldered’ Smith when he got him out (saw the video, hardly touched him) and for making an ugly face at Warner (very ugly face indeed) after getting him out . I think the ICC decision was a bit harsh especially since the OZZies may sledge unimpededly, Now SA’s chances of winning the series are severely compromised.

          • I’m glad you won the test but things aren’t looking good for the next one! That it outrageous about Rabada. If anyone deserves an ugly look it’s Warner – he’s the one who should be out. Aus had to make him captain to make it less likely he’d be out on a warning imo. What does it say about a team when the worst behaved player is made captain? How does Warner keep getting away with it?

  5. nicky says:

    About the main subject: has the Islamic rot (read Saudi petrodollars) spread to NZ too? That student should have been reprimanded for her excessive rudeness , trying (and apparently succeeding) to impose her norms -which probably is the aim in the first place- on a society where she should consider herself a guest. Disgusting.

    • I don’t know for sure, but I strongly suspect this is the case. Universities are always short of money here, and what they get from international students they will not want to put at risk. I hate the idea that a NZ university might be compromising their principles, especially since Auckland is our top one, and in the top 100 in the world. (All but one of our universities were in the top 100 20 years ago, but I think now only two are!)

  6. Amarachi says:

    Well done on spreading the news about our spikey friends who are declining in number. Can”t wait for them to wake up so I can start filming them overnight again. We have already done a big order from so have lots of hedgehog food ready for when they wake up! We also have a few hedgehog houses in our garden. If you have any spare hedgehog food or give donations of hedgehog food to charity, please consider Medway Hedgehog Rescue (on facebook) who run completely on donations. They currently have Timmy, a 3-legged hedgehog who we rescued from my parents garden with an infected leg. He has his leg removed by a vet and has been with Medway Hedgehog rescue since December. He is now fit and heathy and weighs 1kg and is ready for release in the warmer weather! He is also chipped! Hedgehogs are lovely creatures and deserve to be saved from extinction. I”ve attached a photo of Barney, one of our wild European hedgehogs who visits our garden for food, water and to sleep.

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