Another day and another story focussing on Muslims in the UK. This time, a Muslim employee at a checkout did not want to handle pork material or alcohol which meant that customers had to line up at another till. This incident led to Facebook pages springing up, on-line campaigning and the usual coterie of Far Right keyboard activists jumping on this incident. All this since someone did not want to handle foodstuffs with pork material or alcohol.
So this leads us to raise the following. Would this furore happen if for example, Jewish employees did the same thing or is it just open season on Muslims at the moment? Or what about a vegan employee who did not want to handle animal foodstuffs? Given the thousands of complaints made to Marks and Spencer, there must be something seriously amiss if we as customers feel that we need to organise a campaign so actively because we have to wait a few more minutes in a queue. Alternatively, is it because the individual involved was Muslim?
We are also concerned as to the number of people who complained and the speed of the campaign. Clearly, it was an organised campaign and we only wish that such energy could be utilised to tackle things such as child poverty in our country or tackling violence and misogyny against women. Instead, the howls and heckles were targeted towards an employee whose actions meant that people had to wait a few more minutes. What was also unsaid was that campaigners were pushing a perceived notion of ‘favouritism,’ irrespective of the fact that the policy of allowing staff not to handle certain foodstuffs went wider than just Muslim employees. But you see, that did not matter for those campaigners who may have been fixated on only the ‘Muslim’ element.
Sadly, this incident says more about the state of community perceptions than it does the state of Marks and Spencer’s human resource policies. It also shows that there is a great deal of work to be done in bringing in some logic and reason into debates and incidents where Muslims are involved.
Far Right Involvement
We must also acknowledge the role of Far Right sympathisers in whipping up intolerance and bigotry. Time and time again, such groups are active on-line looking and highlighting any story, whether true or not, which involves Muslims. What is also worrying is that some people join in or get involved in such activism knowing that Far Right sympathisers are leading the charge. It is a charge that needs to be halted in its tracks, its momentum sapped and its energies dissipated as far and wide as possible. For if we do not take on the challenge against the changing and morphing face of the Far Right, the future of community relations and the peace of our communities are at stake.
Lastly, just to re-iterate our position. If a Jewish or Muslim employee made us wait a few more minutes since they could not handle certain foodstuff items, we would not be encouraged to campaign against their actions. It would teach us a bit of patience and how important it is not to always think of ourselves, unless we had deeper and more underlying issues.