In what many critics are calling a racially motivated move, Denmark passed legislation on Thursday requiring immigrants seeking naturalization to shake hands during the ceremony.

The New York Times reports critics say the new law is a bigoted way of keeping certain religious groups out of the country. Some Muslims and Jews avoid physical contact with the opposite sex. Those opposed to the law claim the legislation is the latest in a long line of anti-Islamic moves made by the government.

Lawmakers agree with these critics.

Martin Henriksen, a spokesman for the right-wing Danish People’s Party, said the law is needed because of "Muslim immigration to Denmark over a long time,” and added, “If one can’t do something that simple and straightforward, there’s no reason to become a Danish citizen.” 

As CNN reports, Danish immigration minister Inger Støjberg wrote on Facebook when announcing an immigration policy affecting potential refugees that some people "are unwanted and they will feel it."

Billy O'Shea, an Irish immigrant seeking citizenship in Denmark, took a stand against this type of language by submitting an op-ed to a Danish newspaper announcing his plans not to shake hands during his naturalization ceremony as a means of protesting the new policy.

The move was widely praised. O'Shea told German media outlet Deutsche Welle, “The government says that the handshake is intended to show respect for Danish traditions and Danish culture, and I feel that you cannot impose respect by law. … If you demand respect of people, what you receive will not be respect but submissiveness.”

O'Shea also cited a poll reported by Altinget that found only 36 percent of Danes support the handshake law. A full 52 percent are against it, while the remaining 12 percent weren't sure whether they like the law or not.

Regardless of the public's opinion of it, the law is scheduled to take effect at the start of January 2019.

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