Handshake with Michelle was forced: Indonesian minister

November 10th, 2010 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama London, Nov 10 (IANS) An Indonesian minister, who was criticised by Muslims for shaking hands with the US First Lady Michelle Obama, said on Twitter that the skin-to-skin contact was forced.

Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring was among the dignitaries of the host country to greet US President Barack Obama and his wife as they arrived in Jakarta Tuesday.

Sembiring, who is known for his conservatism and claims that as a Muslim he avoids touching women who aren’t related to him, came under attack by the Muslim community after he was seen in the reception footage grasping Michelle’s hands, British newspaper Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

Sembiring sought to deflect criticism by claiming that the skin-to-skin contact was all Michelle Obama’s fault.

“I tried to prevent (being touched) with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me (so) we touched,” Sembiring wrote on his Tweeter account.

However, footage on YouTube shows otherwise, sparking a debate that has lit up Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites.

In the footage of the official welcome, Sembiring appeared sharing his countrymen’s enthusiasm. He smiled broadly as he shook the president’s hand and then reached with both hands to grasp Michelle Obama’s, the report said.

His denial was in response to the tweets from Indonesians who noted the handshake and questioned his long-standing claims that, as a good Muslim, he restricts his contact with women.

Sembiring has often tweeted controversial comments. He also faced criticism for one of his earlier tweet in which he blamed lack of morality and joking about AIDS as causes of natural disasters.

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