In a landmark legal case, Nohad Halawi, a former employee at London’s Heathrow Airport, is suing her former employer for unfair dismissal, claiming that Christian staff members, including her, were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.
Halawi’s case is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), an organization that provides legal support for Christians in the United Kingdom. CLC says the case raises important legal issues, and also questions over whether Muslims and Christians are treated differently by employers.
Halawi, who immigrated to Britain from Lebanon in 1977, told the London Telegraph “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 for 13 years as a saleswoman at World Duty Free, where she sold perfumes. Halawi was dismissed in July, following complaints by five Muslims that she was being “anti-Islamic.”
Halawi says her problems with the Muslims began after she defended a Christian friend who worked with her at the same store, and who was being harassed by the Muslims for wearing a necklace with a cross.
Matters got worse after Halawi described a Muslim staff member as an “allawhi,” or “man of God” in Arabic. Another worker, however, who overheard the remark, thought she said “Alawi,” his branch of Islam. The misunderstanding led to a heated argument, after which Hawali was suspended and then fired.
Halawi says she persistently complained to management that she was being subjected to personal religious abuse and harassment from Muslim staff, some of whom went so far as to mock her about “shitty Jesus,” according to the CLC. She says a group of “extremist” Muslims were the perpetrators, and that 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 told the London Telegraph. “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, but the law seems to be on the side of the Muslims,” Halawi said.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the CLC, said in a statement 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. Secondly, 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,” Williams said.
The Halawi case comes amid concerns that Christianity is being marginalized in Britain at the same time that Islam is spreading rapidly and Muslims are becoming more assertive.
British MP David Simpson, for example, has warned that Christianity is seen to be fair game for criticism and abuse while Islam receives special protection in the United Kingdom.
During a debate in the House of Commons in May 2011 about the treatment of Christians around the world, Simpson said: “In the United Kingdom, the policy seems to be that people can do whatever they like against Christianity – criticize it or blaspheme the name of Christ – as long as they do not insult Islam.”
In London, the Harrow Council has provoked a storm of protest after announcing plans to offer Islamic halal-only menus in the borough’s 52 state primary schools. Parents are outraged that meat prepared according to Islamic Sharia law is being pushed on non-Muslim children. Meanwhile, most of the in-flight meals on British Airways could soon be halal. The airline also says Muslim staff may wear veils, but Christian employees may not wear crosses.
Across Britain, Muslim bus and taxi drivers are telling blind passengers that they cannot bring their “unclean” dogs on board. The problem of prohibiting guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was recently raised in the House of Lords.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has criticized politically correct officials who remove carols and Nativity plays from Christmas celebrations in an effort to appease Muslims. He wrote: “The weary annual attempts by right-thinking people in Britain to ban or discourage Nativity plays or public carol-singing out of sensitivity to the supposed tender consciences of other religions fail to notice that most people of other religions and cultures both love the story and respect the message.”
The politically correct enhancement of Islam at the expense of Christianity in Britain has been institutionalized by the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which was enacted by the British government in an effort to ease religious tensions in the country amid a rapidly growing Muslim population. (Britain now has an estimated 2.5 million Muslims, giving it the third-largest Muslim population in Europe, after German and France.)
The new law makes it a crime intentionally to stir up religious hatred against people on religious grounds, and has led to zealousness bordering on the absurd.
In Nottingham, for example, the Greenwood Primary School cancelled a Christmas nativity play because it interfered with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In Scarborough, the Yorkshire Coast College removed the words Christmas and Easter from their calendar not to offend Muslims. In Scotland, the Tayside Police Department apologized for featuring a German shepherd puppy as part of a campaign to publicize its new non-emergency telephone number. The postcards are potentially offensive to the city’s 3,000-strong Muslim community: Islamic legal tradition says that dogs are impure.
In Glasgow, a Christian radio show host was fired after a debate between a Muslim and a Christian on whether Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” In Birmingham, two Christians were told by police “you cannot preach here, this is a Muslim area.” In Cheshire, two students at the Alsager High School were punished by their teacher for refusing to pray to Allah as part of their religious education class. Also in Cheshire, a 14-year-old Roman Catholic girl who attends Ellesmere Port Catholic High School was branded a truant by teachers for refusing to dress like a Muslim and visit a mosque.
In Liverpool, a Christian couple were forced to sell their hotel after a female Muslim guest accused them of insulting her during a debate about Islam. In London, Rory Bremner, a political comedian, said that every time he writes a sketch about Islam, he fears that he is signing his own death warrant. At the same time, Scotland Yard says that Muslims who launch a shoe at another person are not committing a crime because the practice is Islamic symbolism.
In Kent, police have been banned from asking for a person’s “Christian” name, as this request might offend Muslims. The Kent Police Department’s 62-page ‘Faith and Culture Resource’ guide tells officers to use “personal and family name” instead of “Christian” name. In East London, all elected members of Tower Hamlets town council were told not to eat during daylight hours in town hall meetings during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Special arrangements were also made to disrupt council meetings to allow for Muslim prayer. Meanwhile, the council renamed a staff Christmas party as a “festive meal.”
Elsewhere in Britain, a foster mother has been struck off the social services register for allowing a Muslim girl in her care to convert to Christianity. Officials insist the woman, who has who has looked after more than 80 children in the past ten years, failed in her duty to preserve the girl’s religion and should have tried to stop the baptism. They ruled that the girl, now 17, should stay away from church for six months.
In some British prisons, radical Muslim gangs are imposing Sharia law on non-Muslim inmates, who have been forced to stop playing Western music, take down pictures of women from their cells and stop eating sausage. The gangs are also targeting non-Muslim inmates for forced conversions to Islam.
In Leeds, more than 200 Muslim inmates at a high security prison are set to launch a multi-million pound claim for compensation after they were offered ham sandwiches during the month of Ramadan. They say their human rights were breached when they were offered the meat, which is forbidden by Islam. At the same time, Muslim sex offenders in British prisons are asking to be exempt from a prison treatment program because the idea that “criminals should not have to talk about their offenses” is a “legitimate Islamic position.”
In West Yorkshire, an electrician working for a housing association in Wakefield was told he would be fired for placing a small palm cross on the dashboard of his van. His employer said the cross could be offensive to Muslims: “Wakefield and District Housing has a stance of neutrality. We now have different faiths, new emerging cultures. We have to be respectful of all views and beliefs.”
In London, the BBC in September dropped the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (which translates from Latin to ‘the year of our Lord’) and replaced them with the “religiously-neutral” BCE and CE. In BBC justified the move this way: “As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.”
Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who resigned as the Bishop of Rochester amid death threats from Muslim extremists in Britain, says the BBC’s move “amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history.”
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.