Elisabeth Ivarsflaten, Marc Helbling, Paul Sniderman, Richard Traunmüller
Value Conflicts Revisited: Muslims, Gender Equality and Gestures of Respect

British Journal of Political Science, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 0007-1234 (print), 1469-2112 (Online)

This is a study on the inclusion of Muslims in liberal democracies in the presence of value conflict. We focus on handshaking controversies that appear to pit gender equality against religious freedom. The possible outcomes seem mutually exclusive: either conservative Muslim minorities must conform to the norms of the majority culture, or non-Muslim majorities must acquiesce to the legitimacy of conservative Muslim ideas. Using a trio of experiments to replicate our results, we demonstrate the efficacy of introducing alternative gestures of respect. Presented with a substitute gesture of respect – placing the ‘hand on heart’ – non-Muslim demands for Muslim conformity drop dramatically. The results of the handshaking experiments call out a general lesson. Thanks to the ingenuity and versatility of cultural customs to signal respect, value conflicts can be open to resolution in everyday encounters without minorities or majorities having to forsake their convictions.