Indonesia minister objects to Michelle Obama handshake

Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, a conservative Muslim, tweets that he "tried to prevent" hand contact


Associated Press
November 9, 2010 7:35PM (UTC)

All of Indonesia is welcoming President Barack Obama, but one minister has a decidedly less friendly message.

Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring told followers on Twitter he tried to avoid shaking the first lady's hand. As a conservative Muslim, he usually avoids contact with women outside his family.

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Sembiring was in a receiving line that greeted the Obamas in Jakarta on Tuesday -- a homecoming of sorts for the president who spent part of his childhood here.

Footage of the event showed Sembiring smiling broadly as he reached with both hands to grasp Michelle's. But later he said she forced their contact.

He tweeted: "I tried to prevent (being touched) with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me (so) we touched."

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