Marks & Spencer (M&S) faced a lot of criticism after a Muslim member of its staff refused to serve a shopper who wanted to buy alcohol. People were so enraged that they even thought of boycotting the iconic brand.
“I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me,” a customer at Marks & Spencer’s London store told The Sunday Telegraph. He was asked to seek the assistance of a different staff member.
Marks and Spencer apologized for the incident, saying their policies allow Muslims (and Jews) to avoid handling alcohol or pork, and allow similar exceptions for other religions.
According to an M&S spokesman, “Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our member of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.
“As a secular business we have an inclusive policy that welcomes all religious beliefs, whether across our customer or employee base… We apologize that this policy was not followed in the case reported.”
Not many agree with their policies:
These Marks & Spencer tweets may seem frivolous. But they are serious examples of the kind of RIDICULE religious discrimination deserves.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) December 22, 2013
Marks and Spencer pic.twitter.com/XQv20BWwrs— Richard Ferrand (@FrenchR1ck) December 23, 2013
New face of marks and Spencer's pic.twitter.com/12TjM63rfA— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) December 22, 2013
Muslims who don't want to sell alcohol or pork are unfit for work in M&S or any other grocers. Simple as that. http://t.co/tsqjnSdchk— Alexander Trafford (@alextrafford) December 22, 2013
I wonder when our supermarkets will bow to islam and stop selling pork or alcohol all together http://t.co/NoUzrSnsPo— Santa Montana (@So0N0x) December 22, 2013
The critics aren’t wrong. The extremely sensitive policies of the famous retailers are really a wonderful gesture, but the behavior of some of the staff members is uncalled for.
As Khola Hasan, an Islamic law consultant puts it, "I don't think the Islamic ruling is being so difficult that Muslims cannot cope in society."They certainly are prohibited from consuming alcohol and pork but it doesn’t say anywhere they can’t handle it if their job requires it. If it’s that distasteful for them, they can switch jobs, but that is their decision, not a religious obligation. “