Sparks at Marks

 

I’ve blogged about this sorry business elsewhere, but Theotory blogger (and martyred Archbishop!) Cranmer’s response to the latest step in the UK’s slow (or maybe not so slow) slide into balkanization is too good not to share here.

The drama opens (as the Daily Telegraph recounts) in a branch of Marks & Spencer’s, an iconic British high street retailer, once seen as an embodiment of solid good sense, if not, perhaps, the most exciting of places:

At one of its stores in central London last week, customers waiting with goods that included pork or alcohol were told by a Muslim checkout worker to wait until another till became available. The assistant was extremely apologetic at having to ask customers to wait.

One customer, who declined to be named, said: “I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available.

“I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.”

Customers trying to buy alcoholic drinks for Christmas were also asked to wait.

M&S explained:

“We recognise that some of our employees practise religions that restrict the food or drink they can handle, or that mean they cannot work at certain times. M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service.”

Over to Cranmer:

An environment free from discrimination? Have they considered that their customers don’t wish to be discriminated against and made to feel morally deficient or ‘unclean’? How is inconveniencing customers by forcing them to queue at non-Muslim checkouts consistent with “high levels of customer service”? 

The main problem with this is that it plays to a certain Muslim stereotype: it affirms an utterly myopic interpretation of sharia law and so perpetuates prejudice against all Muslims. The Qur’an exhorts Muslims not to eat pork products or drink alcohol: it does not say they may not handle glass bottles or pass a plastic packet of bacon over a scanner.

But, no matter. Some M&S equality aficionado has determined the orthodox tenets of each religion, and is prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate them: they have confirmed – in true anti-discrimination style – that Jewish employees are also permitted to decline to serve customers alcohol and pork, notwithstanding that no Jewish employee has ever refused to do this in the store’s 129-year history.

But why stop at alcohol and pork?

Are they also permitted to decline to scan a packet of prawns? May they refuse to sell garments made of wool and cotton? Or meat mixed with dairy? Is a Muslim employee permitted to decline to sell you a bikini or a lipstick? And what about M&S finance? Is a Muslim employee who objects to charging interest on debt going to be permitted to administer an interest-free credit card?

And why restrict this to the point of sale? Don’t these products require handling throughout the logistical chain? Are Muslim (and Jewish) employees going to be exempt from placing orders for certain products? Are they going to be exempt from handling certain boxes in the warehouse? 

Are Christians going to be permitted to decline to handle halal meat, since it has been “offered to idols” (1Cor 8)? Or has the M&S equality aficionado decreed that this is not a fundamental  requirement of the faith? If so, on what theological basis?

As far as His Grace is aware, M&S don’t sell condoms. But if they did, would a Roman Catholic employee be permitted to decline to serve the customer, thereby compounding their embarrassment?

This is not “reasonable accommodation”: it is not the same as permitting holy days off or the wearing of certain religious symbols over a uniform. It is manifestly unreasonable when customers are inconvenienced by i) having to queue at a non-sharia checkout, or ii) waiting for a member of staff to arrive who is prepared to serve you.

Oh yes, it seems that the Church of England thinks the whole thing is fine. #sigh, as they say over in Twitterland. 

There are 41 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @JohnAPeabody

    The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport had this issue a few years back in the taxi queue. Certain drivers were refusing passengers that were carrying alchohol. The issue was whether or not these taxis could simply take the next passengers, or fall out to the back of the taxi line for refusing customers (which was the rule). The airport commission temporarily allowed the refusals, but I don’t know the final solution.

    • #1
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    @FredCole

    So is this entirely the choice of the retailer to allow this?  Is this their policy?  Or would not allowing this on the part of their employees open them to some kind of liability?

    • #2
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    @AndrewStuttaford
    Fred Cole: So is this entirely the choice of the retailer to allow this?  Is this their policy?  Or would not allowing this on the part of their employees open them to some kind of liability? · 14 minutes ago

    It is the retailer’s policy. There does not appear to be any legal requirement for M&S to do this. Indeed Cranmer argues that the application of this policy may open up M&S to some litigation risk. 

    • #3
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    @BrentB67

    This is what our future looks like. Continue to borrow and fund a never ending welfare/entitlement state so too many people can subsist and avoid entry level work. Then open the borders to fill the entry level jobs while simultaneously perpetuating the welfare/entitlement state.

    Thankfully, we have both political parties committed to borrowing to fund this fiasco in the U.S.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @iWe
    BrentB67: This is what our future looks like. Continue to borrow and fund a never ending welfare/entitlement state so too many people can subsist and avoid entry level work. Then open the borders to fill the entry level jobs while simultaneously perpetuating the welfare/entitlement state.

    Thankfully, we have both political parties committed to borrowing to fund this fiasco in the U.S. · 1 minute ago

    I think you posted on the wrong thread.

    • #5
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    @iWe

    The UK is going fully Sharia-compliant. It has been inevitable for a long time – which is why I left 9 years ago.

    • #6
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    @thayes

    Ultimately this kind of thing should be handled by the market.  I know if I had this happen to me I would take my business elsewhere.  If their customer base disappears M&S would have to decide to continue their employee “accommodations” or close.

    • #7
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    @Spin

    Do we equate this, in anyway, with pharmacists in the United States refusing to administer birth control and/or the “morning after” pill (or other similar drugs)?  Are the situations analogous? 

     At what point does allowing the free practice of a person’s religion bleed over into repressing someone else?  It seems the store’s policy is to allow the practice at the discretion of the employee.  So employees are not forced to refuse to scan a package of bacon.  I guess I’m not as outraged as perhaps I should be.  If the store is making concessions to Islamic employees but not to Christian employees or Buddhist employees, then I have an issue.

    • #8
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    @Spin

    It does beg the larger question of how far should we go to avoid offending someone else?  A few years ago I had a Muslim man working for me.  We is very devout and there were certain times when it became apparent.  For example, when he came to my house and my dog came out onto the deck he stepped behind another person to avoid having to touch the dog.  Should I have put my dog away?  Another time we were listening to music in the office when someone pointed out that Abid was forbidden to listen to music.  I asked him why this was, and he explained why.  Then I said, in a nice way, that it seemed to me it must be hard for him to be in the U.S., because music is everywhere.  Should we turn off our music?  I’m offended by music with a lot of vulgarity, particularly when it’s played loud in public.  Should I tell those kids to “turn that crap down”?  

    • #9
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    @AndrewStuttaford
    Spin: Do we equate this, in anyway, with pharmacists in the United States refusing to administer birth control and/or the “morning after” pill (or other similar drugs)?  Are the situations analogous? 

     

    I touched on this (somewhat) a few years back over at the Corner. 

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/151952/pharmacists/andrew-stuttaford

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Contributor
    @KingBanaian
    John Peabody: The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport had this issue a few years back in the taxi queue. Certain drivers were refusing passengers that were carrying alchohol. The issue was whether or not these taxis could simply take the next passengers, or fall out to the back of the taxi line for refusing customers (which was the rule). The airport commission temporarily allowed the refusals, but I don’t know the final solution. · 57 minutes ago

    They were finally told, the following spring, that refusal meant a 30 day suspension on the first offense, 2 years on the second.  That was five years ago, and the rule exists to this day.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival

    Back in the early Eighties, there was a girl who frequently worked check-out at the grocery store nearby.  She asked me to bag the beer, if I was buying beer, whenever I checked out through her aisle.  I have always assumed that that was a religious thing: normally, underage check-out personnel would call over an older co-worker to approve the sail.

    She didn’t refuse to ring me up, however.  I don’t know what she would have done if I had said no.

    • #12
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    @BrentB67
    iWc

    BrentB67: This is what our future looks like. Continue to borrow and fund a never ending welfare/entitlement state so too many people can subsist and avoid entry level work. Then open the borders to fill the entry level jobs while simultaneously perpetuating the welfare/entitlement state.

    Thankfully, we have both political parties committed to borrowing to fund this fiasco in the U.S. · 1 minute ago

    I think you posted on the wrong thread. · 42 minutes ago

    No. I am confident that a liberal welfare state and open borders in the UK has wrought this kind of behavior and we will do the same to ourselves.

    • #13
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    @BasilFawlty

    I thought this was a FoodyDirect ad.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @iWe
    BrentB67

    iWc

    BrentB67: This is what our future looks like. Continue to borrow and fund a never ending welfare/entitlement state so too many people can subsist and avoid entry level work.  

    I think you posted on the wrong thread. · 42 minutes ago

    No. I am confident that a liberal welfare state and open borders in the UK has wrought this kind of behavior and we will do the same to ourselves. · 12 minutes ago

    Generally, I agree that welfare harms societies and the will to work. But this is not really the same thing – what we see here is an unwillingness to accept the dominance of the host country’s culture.

    If the US opened its borders, AND promoted American values properly, we might very well see a lot of proud new, hard-working and assimilated Americans – as we did for 200 years.

    And if we opened the border to Mexico, it would not lead to the US ceding lawful authority to Sharia.

    • #15
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    @ParisParamus

    This is how Western Civilization dies, one sausage link at a time…

    • #16
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    @BrentB67
    iWc

    BrentB67

    iWc

    BrentB67:  

     

    No. I am confident that a liberal welfare state and open borders in the UK has wrought this kind of behavior and we will do the same to ourselves. · 12 minutes ago

    Generally, I agree that welfare harms societies and the will to work. But this is not really the same thing – what we see here is an unwillingness to accept the dominance of the host country’s culture.

    If the US opened its borders, AND promoted American values properly, we might very well see a lot of proud new, hard-working and assimilated Americans – as we did for 200 years.

    And if we opened the border to Mexico, it would not lead to the US ceding lawful authority to Sharia. · 1 minute ago

    Do you realize that we have cities where pesos are accepted as currency, sometimes exclusively? It may not be Sharia, but the causes are the same. So is the cure.

    If we didn’t have a welfare state more would be willing to work, same problem in the UK. Both countries have open borders.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FredCole
    thayes: Ultimately this kind of thing should be handled by the market.  I know if I had this happen to me I would take my business elsewhere.  If their customer base disappears M&S would have to decide to continue their employee “accommodations” or close.

    I second this.  If they want to voluntarily do this for their employee, idc.   If they choose to do this, all they’re hurting is themselves.  They decided that it somehow is in their best interest to do this.  Hobby Lobby does something similar by being closed on Sunday. 

    If this got obnoxious enough I’d take my business elsewhere.  That’s why I go to Walmart instead of Hobby Lobby.  

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FredCole
    BrentB67

    Do you realize that we have cities where pesos are accepted as currency, sometimes exclusively? 

    That’s interesting.

    Where is that?

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67
    Fred Cole

    BrentB67

    Do you realize that we have cities where pesos are accepted as currency, sometimes exclusively? 

    That’s interesting.

    Where is that? · 7 minutes ago

    We have a section of Dallas a few blocks away where Pesos are preferred and you will be offered change in Pesos. In the valley there are entire towns that do it.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67
    Fred Cole

    thayes: Ultimately this kind of thing should be handled by the market.  I know if I had this happen to me I would take my business elsewhere.  If their customer base disappears M&S would have to decide to continue their employee “accommodations” or close.

    I second this.  If they want to voluntarily do this for their employee, idc.   If they choose to do this, all they’re hurting is themselves.  They decided that it somehow is in their best interest to do this.  Hobby Lobby does something similar by being closed on Sunday. 

    If this got obnoxious enough I’d take my business elsewhere.  That’s why I go to Walmart instead of Hobby Lobby.   · 7 minutes ago

    What do you have against Hobby Lobby? I don’t recall them asking for any special treatment from the government.

    • #21
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    @FredCole
    BrentB67

    I haven’t visited them, just hear about it from guys working the southern portion of the Eagle Ford. Hidalgo made it into the papers once in a while. There are parts of El Paso that uses Pesos as currency. I have even seen guys pay with Pesos as far north as Midland. 

    Okay.  So do you see this as a problem?

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67
    Fred Cole

    BrentB67

    I haven’t visited them, just hear about it from guys working the southern portion of the Eagle Ford. Hidalgo made it into the papers once in a while. There are parts of El Paso that uses Pesos as currency. I have even seen guys pay with Pesos as far north as Midland. 

    Okay.  So do you see this as a problem? · 4 minutes ago

    When I first read about it I was very alarmed, but less so now. I imagine there are some unforeseen consequences of doing it, but in my daily life it doesn’t make a difference that I can tell.

    I think it is a good example of our lack of cultural assimilation not unlike the Sharia issue in the OP.

    • #23
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    @MarionEvans

    Definitive proof that corporations are indeed people since they too can be ‘useful idiots’.  :)

    Merry Christmas!

    • #24
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    @VanceRichards

    I wonder if Marks & Spencer’s also own any strip clubs. That could be interesting, “Hey, I’ll give you $20 if pull up that burka and show me a little wrist.”

    • #25
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    @CrowsNest
    Andrew Stuttaford:

    Over to Cranmer:

    This is not “reasonable accommodation”: it is not the same as permitting holy days off or the wearing of certain religious symbols over a uniform. It is manifestly unreasonable when customers are inconvenienced by i) having to queue at a non-sharia checkout, or ii) waiting for a member of staff to arrive who is prepared to serve you.

    Not to worry. Someone will be along any second to inform you of the rights of minority cultures.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrowsNest
    Andrew Stuttaford: Oh yes, it seems that the Church of England thinks the whole thing is fine.

    Of late, that seems to be the CoE’s position on, well, everything….

    • #27
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    @ParisParamus

    Has anyone mentioned that the whole polemic possibly extra charged by the fact that M&S was founded by Jewish immigrants, and I believe (but am not certain) continues to have that orientation…

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @AdamKoslin
    BrentB67

    Fred Cole

    BrentB67

    I haven’t visited them, just hear about it from guys working the southern portion of the Eagle Ford. Hidalgo made it into the papers once in a while. There are parts of El Paso that uses Pesos as currency. I have even seen guys pay with Pesos as far north as Midland. 

    Okay.  So do you see this as a problem? · 4 minutes ago

    When I first read about it I was very alarmed, but less so now. I imagine there are some unforeseen consequences of doing it, but in my daily life it doesn’t make a difference that I can tell.

    I think it is a good example of our lack of cultural assimilation not unlike the Sharia issue in the OP. · 2 hours ago

    Pesos being used that close to the Mexican border is a lot less worrying than such extremes of cultural isolation as occur in England.   My worry is about wages and the social division caused by the crap wages paid to immigrants, not that Latin Americans are going to demand separate law codes.  So long as La Raza isn’t running candidates, I think we’re okay.

    • #29
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    @FredCole
    BrentB67

    I think it is a good example of our lack of cultural assimilation not unlike the Sharia issue in the OP. · 6 hours ago

    Nah.

    Honestly, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t use Pesos there.  El Paso and Hidalgo are right on the border.  It makes perfect sense that they’d use Pesos.  

    Montreal is 45 miles north of the US border, they’ll happily accept US dollars there.  And there used to be signs on the NYS Thruway tollbooths in Albany and Schenectady indicating that Canadian currency was discounted 15%.  Albany is 220 miles from Montreal.

    So, Pesos in southern Texas makes perfect sense to me.

    • #30
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