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Thursday, April 02, 2009
Posted: April 02, 2009
4:12 pm Eastern
President Obama greeted the king of Saudi Arabia with a full bow from the waist yesterday, a move one commentator described as a violation of protocol and not worthy of the office he holds.
“I am quite certain that this is not the protocol, and is most unbecoming a President of the United States,” writes Clarice Feldman in an American Thinker commentary.
The situation developed as leaders of the world attending the G20 summit in London assembled for a photograph to mark the event.
In this first image, Obama has approached the king and bends from the waist until his head is nearly at the monarch’s waist:
President Obama’s bow to Saudi king
In a second image, Obama has straightened up and is exchanging remarks with the Saudi leader:
Obama speaks briefly with Saudi king after bowing
Video by a television crew was posted on YouTube. The bow comes at about 50 seconds into the video:
The U.S. State Department’s office of protocol did not respond to a WND request for the proper etiquette for two heads of state meeting, but the online Travel Etiquette website for Saudi Arabia said handshakes are common greetings between members of the same sex.
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“You should expect to undertake a considerable amount of small talk, and learning a few Arabic greetings would be well received. Saudis will stand closer to each other than many westerners are used to, and members of the same sex will often touch arms when postulating or emphasizing a point. You should not draw away from this as it would be considered rude and rejecting. Be aware that due to the conservative nature of Saudi Arabian society, it is not considered proper etiquette for men and women to greet each other in public,” the site advises.
“It is proper etiquette to refer to a royal as Your Highness, and any members of the government ministries as Your Excellency,” it said.
Many of the proper procedures for meeting royalty are set by the British monarchy, since its members carry probably the highest royal profile around the world today.
The website for the British queen advises men who are from the United Kingdom to provide a neck bow (from the head only) “whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.”
“On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’,” the site advises.
ABC reported Obama and his wife, Michelle, were less formal meeting Queen Elizabeth II earlier this week, when they exchanged handshakes. The queen briefly touched Michelle Obama on the back, and she returned the contact.
Pundits were surprised, since in 1992 Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating was criticized when he put his arm around the queen in violation of a general “no-touch” rule regarding royalty.
But the traditional Miss Manners book of etiquette advises: “One does not bow or curtsy to a foreign monarch because the gesture symbolizes recognition of her power over her subjects.”
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