Wednesday, October 17, 2007


"Sainsbury's, "keen to accommodate the religious beliefs of all staff", now allows Muslim workers who object to alcohol on religious grounds to have a colleague take their place. The company didn't see that such cack-handed posturing does Islam no favours, reinforcing a perception of an intolerant and unbending religion, which is not, I believe, where the majority of British Muslims are.

Worse still is the atmosphere it creates within its own workforce. The craven attitude of Sainsbury's creates a space the religious fanatics will use to bully their mostly female fellow workers, arguing they are not good Muslims if they choose to serve alcohol when they have the option not to.

Most Islamic organisations are as baffled by the move as I was, saying Muslims who refuse to sell alcohol are reneging on their employment agreements. I mean, where does the logic stop? Should I hesitate to approach checkouts with a pork pie or products containing gelatin? Does the absurdity extend to Mr Hothead not handling CDs with semi-clad female singers on the cover, or is it just the more morally ambiguous devil's own drink I should keep away from him? What will it mean when Sainsbury's is eventually taken over by new Muslim owners? Interests connected with the royal family of Qatar have spent more than £2 billion buying a25% stake in the company, which they hope to control.

Having an entire culture hijacked and caricatured by zealots is not something unique to the British Muslim community. I remember a time when it was difficult to buy condoms on the predominantly Catholic island of Barra or sweets on a Sunday on the mainly Presbyterian island of Lewis."

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