Monday, 28 November 2011 16:29

U.K. Christian Worker Loses Airport Job Because of Muslim "Extremists"

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An ex-employee of London’s buzzing Heathrow Airport is suing her former employer for unfair dismissal, claiming that she and other Christian staff were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. According to the U.K.’s Sunday Telegraph, Nohad Halawi, who migrated to Britain from Lebanon in 1977, professed "that she was told that she would go to Hell for her religion, that Jews were responsible for the September 11th terror attacks, and that a friend was reduced to tears having been bullied for wearing a cross."

Halawi worked at the airport as a saleswoman at World Duty Free, where she sold perfumes at a commission-based pay position, but was dismissed in July, after working for the airport shopping outlet for 13 years. While nurturing many relationships amongst staff of all religious affiliations, she was fired following "unsubstantiated complaints by five Muslims about her contact," reported Christian Concern.

A complaint from a colleague was reported after Halawi described a Muslim staff member as an allawhi, which means "man of God" in Arabic, but another worker nearby thought she said Alawi, a branch of Islam that the worker is affiliated to. The misunderstanding instigated a heated exchange and Hawali was suspended immediately, and then fired in July.

On numerous occasions Halawi reported to management religious abuse and harassment from Islamic staff, who went so far as to mock her about "sh***y Jesus." A group of "extremist" Muslims were the perpetrators, she claimed, and other employees are now worried that their jobs could be at risk if the Muslim group turns on them. "One man brought in the Koran to work and insisted I read it and another brought in Islamic leaflets and handed them out to other employees," Halawi attested. "They said that 9/11 served the Americans right and that they hated the West, but that they had come here because they want to convert people to Islam."

"This is supposed to be a Christian country," Halawi told the Telegraph, "but the law seems to be on the side of the Muslims."

Autogrill Retail U.K. Limited, trading as World Duty Free, and Caroline South Associates supposedly told Halawi that as a part-time, commission-based employee, she has no legal employment rights, neither from the company nor from Caroline South Associates. Heathrow Duty Free confiscated her security pass and notified Halawi that her authority to trade at Heathrow Airport would be revoked.

Halawi’s case surfaces during a delicate time, the Telegraph notes, as Christian groups around the country are rallying to condemn a progressive rise in prejudice and social malfeasance on part of Muslim groups:

Her case is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, who say it raises important legal issues and also questions over whether Muslims and Christians are treated differently by employers.

It comes amid growing concern among some Christians that their faith is being marginalised and follows calls from Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, for Christians to be given greater legal protection in the wake of a series of cases where they have been disciplined or dismissed for practising their faith.

Andrea Minichiello, director of the Christian Legal Centre, averred that Halawi’s case is the most serious she has pursued, and that "it raises huge issues." "First there is the level of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent at our main point of entry to the UK," said Minichiello. "Then there are very real issues of religious discrimination, which it would appear those in authority are turning a blind eye to, using the current loopholes in employment law as an excuse."

The Telegraph refers to other alleged discrimination incidences at Heathrow Airport, including Arieh Zucker, a Jewish businessman, who has accused Muslim security officials of repeatedly singling him out for full-body scans. Zucker is now threatening a lawsuit for racial discrimination, claiming that he has been made to "feel like a criminal."

Likewise, Christian Concern indicates that Halawi’s charges, if valid, raise concerns over the ascendancy of Islamic fundamentalism at Heathrow Airport, and its issues regarding national security, religious discrimination, and the rights of thousands of workers who are "technically" outside U.K. employment law. In referring to the case, Minichiello criticized various provisions of the country’s labor law:

Nohad represents tens of thousands of people across the U.K. who work, in all but name, as "employees" for companies and yet, have absolutely no employment rights. This is a case which, if simply "Struck Out" by the Employment Tribunal as a technicality, will demonstrate how woefully inadequate the U.K.’s employment legislation is, and will ensure that the fundamental security and religious issues of this case are not properly investigated.

Twenty-eight of Halawi’s colleagues — including some Muslims — signed a petition, contending that she was laid off based on "malicious lies." But despite their support, Halawi has yet to be reinstated.

Photo: AP Images

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