Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Convictions of Her Faith?

I have been taking a couple of days and thinking about the Daily Hate's M&S story. H/t to both Bel (and I hope you are enjoying Den Hague, especially now you have the internet back :) and Harry:
A Muslim store worker at Marks & Spencer refused to serve a customer buying a children's book on biblical stories because she said it was "unclean".

Sally Friday, a customer at a branch of one of the famous stores, felt publicly humiliated when she tried to pay for First Bible Stories as a gift for her young grandson.

When the grandmother put the book on the counter, the assistant refused to touch it, declared it was unclean and then summoned another member of staff to deal with the purchase.

Let's assume that the Mail's printing of Mrs Friday's story is factually correct - this is dangerous as this sort of "evil Muslims trampling on British culture" is so appealing to the Mail's "flog'em'n'hang'em" brigade ...

Firstly, is it reasonable that the young Muslim lady should have taken the M&S job without making it clear that she would refuse to handle any items which she felt offended her religion? As a further assumption, this would also apply to alcohol (except, possibly, medical), pork (or any non-halal food), pigskin items, customers with guide dogs etc, etc. This is similar to the Aishah Azmi burkah case - turn up for the interview, behave in a manner that gives no indication of your unwillingness to act in a certain way and don't mention that your behaviour will radically (Ed: yes, he has been pune-ished for that) alter once you are in work*.

I don't think this is reasonable - nobody is forcing these people to take these jobs and they should be honest about their limitations when applying (and this is not an anti-Islam thing, I had the same issues with a member of my team whose wife decided that his Christian religion meant that he couldn't continue to be standby on a Sunday). I am sure that if their interpretation of the requirements of their religion is so strict or orthodox, then they can find jobs that will not put them in risk of impurity.

Secondly, is a book of Bible stories "unclean" or, as Islam has it, "haram"? Historically, Islam has been more tolerant of the "faiths of the book", i.e. Christianity and Judaism, than it has of other faiths and, under more generous readings of the commandments of Islam, are protected to a minor degree (i.e. merely economic serfdom rather than outright enslavement.) And, it has to be said but for a short time, you were at less risk of life and livelihood as a Jew in the Caliphate than as a Jew in Christian Western Europe. Now, I am clearly no imam or scholar of Islamic jurisprudence - so I will leave the clarity up to those with more knowledge. I would point out that the public consensus opinion from "British moderate spokespeople for Islam" seems to be that it isn't. Conversely, it would be a criminal offence, as I understand it, to import or sell such a book in Saudi Arabia and other sharia law states.

Finally, on the subject, let's just consider how bloody rude the silly cow was - Phil comments under Harry's article on the subject that:
If the assistant hadn’t been ‘making a deliberate point’ they could have simply feigned temporary illness and asked someone to take over from them.

Entirely true, if slightly exaggerated. A mere "Excuse me, can I get one of my colleagues to assist you?" would have skated past this whole controversy without it rising to any prominence. Common courtesy, never mind customer service, and this could all have been avoided. So why not?

And, as an antidote to all of that, here is a positive video about Islam and integration (h/t Rachel):

In December 2007, over 2,000 American Muslims were asked what they would wish to say to the rest of the world. This is what they said.

And as an antidote to that, while searching for Aishah Azmi links, I found this bunch of scumbags (NSFW and fetch a clothes-peg for your nose): the "British People's Party". Yuck.

* And, of course, there is also Section 2 and 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 or, if her employment predates that, the old Theft Act Section 16 offence of "obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception".


anthonynorth said...

I get worried by terms such as 'moderate' Muslims. As most are reasonable, peaceful people, is it right to brand them 'moderate', as all they are being is 'normal' to their culture and faith?
I suspect radical Islam - in actual fact, simply a small, if dangerous branch - are quite happy that they've got us to brand them all in this way.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Ah, I was trying to make a subtly different point - that if there is such a thing as a moderate Muslim (as opposed to a fundamentalist one) - the Muslim Council of Britain are probably not where you would go to find one.

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