The female leader of the German Green Party and Iran's ambassador to Berlin sparked outrage after they were caught on video "high-fiving" each other at a security conference in Munich.
Chairman of the German Green Party, Claudia Roth, slapped the hand of Iranian ambassador Ali Reza Sheik Attar, in a “high-five” motion, as she was apparently excited to be meeting the Iranian official.
While Roth is an ardent critic of Iran, namely over its treatment of women, and Attar is a believer in Islamic religious law, which dictates that the he should not shake hands with a woman, such codes did not prevent the two from “slapping palms” and “passing grins” as they were being seated during the security conference, The Telegraph reported.
The video footage has received widespread coverage in the German press, and left both parties red-faced, as spokesmen sought to explain the unusual encounter.
"The ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran never shakes hands with a woman, and he has never shaken Claudia Roth's hand either," a spokesman for the Iranian embassy told the German Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
The ambassador had only attempted a polite greeting or wave, which the Green politician misinterpreted and responded with a "quick touch of the ambassador's hand", the spokesman said. "He was completely surprised by this unexpected gesture."
A spokesman for Roth attributed the high-five to the Green leader having known the ambassador for a number of years, but stressed she remained committed to "Iranian opposition movement", according to The Telegraph.
However, attempts to downplay the incident have failed to temper criticism in the German press, as the Bild newspaper called Roth the "loser of the day" while a columnist for the high-brow Die Welt suggested the politician be cast into the "hall of shame" over the incident.
The story also made waves in Germany because Iran’s leaders routinely deny the Holocaust, which has been outlawed in the country that led to Adolph Hitler’s rise to power.
According to Tablet Magazine’s Adam Chandler, “Claudia Roth’s Green Party arose from the German student movement of the 1960s, recalcitrant in thumbing their noses at the previous generation who had pro-Nazi tendencies. They championed human rights and cast themselves as the enlightened and progressive leaders of Germany’s bright future.”
“So why is the head of the Green Party so cozy with someone whose country’s fascism represents the complete opposite of the Green Party pillars?,” Chandler asks.