Normala's hands

By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by Adeline Lee

The hands of the PAS lady candidate or rather the issue of not shaking hands has become the talking point of the Tenang state by-election.

It seems to be mere gossip; nonetheless it has become a sizzling topic.

Normala is a beautiful and elegant lady, and it is hard for people to associate her with PAS, given the general perception that the party is a tough and uncompromising dogmatic party.

What I mean is that PAS has always emphasised hardline politics, but this time the party approach is gentle, and the tone is different.

If you have attended the general assembly of the Wanita PAS, and seen the dressing of the large number of the lady members, you would understand the difference.

Normala observes the strict religious ethics of PAS, including the prohibition of shaking hands with members of the opposite sex.

To the ordinary person, such a behavior indicates shyness or conservatism, or it could suggest rejection or a lack of sincerity.

However, in Islam, it is not suitable for members of the opposite sex whom one cannot marry (mahram) to have physical contact, including shaking hands.

Of course, not all Muslim women choose not to shake hands with mahram. I know many Muslim ladies who will accept the handshake, but there are others who would not.

Some women wear headscarves, while others do not. The difference lies in different interpretations of doctrines, and differences in life and family backgrounds.

Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem. As long as there is mutual understanding of religious and cultural differences, embarrassment can be avoided.

Even in orthodox Western etiquette, there are also rules regarding the handshake between men and women. The man should not take the initiative to shake hands with the lady, but must wait for the lady to offer her hand. Otherwise, he is regarded as ignorant or rude.

Therefore, even though the handshake may seem routine, it has its religious and cultural sensitivities.

However, in politics, whether to shake hands or not, has gone beyond the individual's religion and ritual practices.

The handshake is an important way to win votes.

If a politician even if he may be without political opinions or neglect his services, as long as he knows how to shake hands, and is eager to shake hands, especially during election campaigning, if he can go from house to house to shake hands with the voters and shake hands until his own hand swells, he can still win the election.

Voters have a subtle psychology, which is that if they can have a hand-grip with the candidate, they would feel that a link is created, and affinity for as well as faith in the candidate is also established.

In particular, politicians who know how to shake hands will not just touch the palm lightly so that the handshake becomes a mere formality.

Their handshake fully commits their palms into the other party's palm, imposes the appropriate amount of force, and let the feeling spread from the palm to the nerve centre, stimulating the secretion of the comforting and pleasurable hormone pythoncidere.

Politicians with a large and fleshy palm, who know how to shake hands well, derive a lot of advantages and successes with the handshake.

Normala’s insistence on not shaking hands is of course a choice that should be respected. It is not a big issue, and we should not misconceive her personal ethical belief and behaviour.

Sin Chew Daily

MySinchew 2011-01-24