Creeping theocracy

This sounds like a fun moment, doesn’t it? An East End Sainsbury’s, staffed mostly by Bangladeshis.

A young Asian checkout operator, with pious beard and a crocheted Kufi Muslim skullcap, made a big deal out of serving a middle-aged white man who had included a bottle of vodka in his groceries. His wasn’t a discreet arm wave for the attention of a supervisor, it was a full-on hissy fit. At the sight of the vodka bottle he reared from his seat as if the conveyer had presented a freshly slaughtered pig’s head….The customer…was having none of it though. “What the bleedin’ ‘ell are you working in a supermarket for if you won’t handle booze?” he shouted, setting the queue to Defcon Two on the London racial tension scale…The hothead till worker’s protest was more testosterone than Taliban but he succeeded in making his point, loudly, in front of 18 female Muslim staff who won’t let their religion bother their job.

More testosterone than Taliban…that’s an interesting way of putting it. I have a feeling that’s a distinction without a difference. Taliban is testosterone, and vice versa. Taliban is all about men bullying women and telling them what to do and telling them they’re filthy and sexual and shameful, defective and wrong and above all subordinate – above all subject to being told what to do by anyone and everyone except themselves. The very first thing Islamists do when they get power is to start telling women what to do. They give one a nasty sense of the world being full of men wandering around fuming at how out of control women are.

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.

Why isn’t Sainsbury’s keen to accomodate the religious or non-religious beliefs of people who want to buy one of the items on sale without any hassle or delay or display of shock-horror from some self-righteous bully at the till? And at that rate, what next? Muslim clerks in Waterstone’s allowed to refuse to sell atheist books or books by women or gays? Bus drivers allowed to refuse to let women on the buses? Muslim teachers in state schools allowed to refuse to teach girls?

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