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Addendum requested: McCants on Gesture

[ by Charles Cameron — vexed questions — to bow or not to bow, hold hands, smooch, that funny handshake, dance moves, veil ]

WIll McCants has lined up his “friendly advice for the poor speechwriter tasked with crafting Trump’s upcoming speech on Islam” in a Politico piece titled Trump Is Giving a Speech About Islam. What Could Go Wrong? The next word, opening McCants’ sub-head? Plenty.


Thing is, gestures speak loud as words. Here are some of the slippery issues McCants might like to address in terms of gesture.


There’s the question of bowing. President Obama may or may not have bowed, or leaned over to give a double-handed handshake. It’s a founding principle that America doesn’t feel deferential to monarchy, and Obama reportedly didn’t bow to Queen Elizabeth when he met her..

Here’s Bill O’Reilly:

If it were me, I wouldn’t hold his hand, I wouldn’t smooch him, I wouldn’t bow, I’d say “Hey, how ya doin’, King..”

Holding hands:

George W Bush holds hands, Chris Matthews and Jon Stweart riff..

Kiss-kiss, aka smooch:

Wolf Blitzer has this one:

Dancing with drawn sword:

Whoda thunkit? This one is truly remarkable, from my Eurocentric perspective…

That no less remarkable handshake:


And then there’s one for the women in Trump’s entourage, Melania and Ivanka to be precise. To veil or not to veil?

Here’s Michelle Obama:

If there is humor in much of the above, it is the humor of contrast with expectation..



Without getting into the details of who greets whom, who goes first and who responds, and in what words, all of which is proper for a Muslim to discuss, I can at least say that the Quran is deeply invested in courtesy of a kind that diplomats would file under “protocol” — as we see in Sura 4 verse 86:

When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.

3 Responses to “Addendum requested: McCants on Gesture”

  1. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    This is why presidents have protocol advisors. I understand the Trump administration has not yet hired one. Good luck.

  2. Grurray Says:

    Trump is also visiting Jerusalem and the Vatican. Maybe we also need the dos and don’ts of addressing the Christian world. He might want to avoid being called to the front desk of the Sancta Sedes as Obama was
    Francis looks like he’s assigning some stiff acts of penance on the former president. No wonder Obama went into seclusion for so long after he left office.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    “You sit there, you drink your kahawa (coffee), you shake your cup, they stop giving you the kahawa, you put your cup out, they give you more kahawa.. you have to literally understand the cuoturte of Saudi Arabia to understand how to work with the Saudis..”
    “Leaders take your hand and walk down an aisle with you…”
    Robert Hortmats, Kissinger Associates VC.

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