The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Religious Discrimination as a Political Weapon?

Posted by rantingkraut on November 5, 2008

Once upon a time, not discriminating against somebody meant not judging an individual adversely by irrelevant criteria such as race or religion. It used to mean allowing freedom of conscience; judging people by their ability or the contents of their character, not the colour of their skin. We have of course long reached the point where non-discrimination is taken to mean making arrangements or granting special favours to members of designated interest groups.

This shift has recently been illustrated by the case of Hasanali Khoja who, as a catering manager, would have been required to handle Pork as part of his job, had he not been exempted from doing so by informal agreement:

His lawyer Khalid Sofi said: “The claim is about his religious beliefs. They failed to accommodate him as they had a duty to do under the law.

He would have had to do certain things and bacon would have been involved.

Mr Sofi said the Met reached an informal agreement with his client in June to excuse him from handling pork products after he took special leave from his job.” (Source)

Never mind, that for most secular minded people, such religious hypersensitivity would simply make this person unsuitable for his job. Never mind also that the Qur’an forbids the consumption [1] rather than the handling of pork. The main characteristic of this case seems to be that the ability to pursue religious lifestyle choices is no longer the issue. According to the above article this problem could have been dealt with amicably and informally. It looks as if this case might simply be about showing who is boss.

The employer in question (the Metropolitan Police Service) had the temerity to get too close to Islam’s religious dogma. A verdict against the employer would set not only a precedent but also a warning: when it comes to labour relations, pre-emptive submission to Islamist religious taboos should be expected as a matter of course.

[1] “In all that has been revealed to me, I find nothing forbidden for people to eat, except for carrion, flowing blood, pig’s meat—it is loathsome—or a sinful offering over which any name other than God’s has been invoked.” (S6:145 on p.91, “The Qur’an – A new translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem” Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004)

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