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Big hoohah in the press today about the Muslim shop assistant who refused to serve a customer buying a children's book on Christianity because it was "unclean".
 
Shopper Sally Friday felt "publicly humiliated" at the Reading branch of Marks & Spencer when she tried to pay for "First Bible Stories" as a gift for her young grandson. When she put the book on the checkout counter, the young assistant refused to touch it, declared it was unclean and summoned another member of staff to serve instead.
 
Mrs Friday said she was so upset that she has now complained to the store's management. Last night politicians and religious leaders supported her in condemning the high street giant and re-igniting the debate over religious beliefs in the workplace.
 
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, described the assistant's comments as "offensive" and called for Marks & Spencer to carry out a thorough investigation.
 
Conservative MP Philip Davies said the refusal to serve Mrs Friday was "unacceptable" and "damaging" to community relations, and added "If a Christian lady had refused to serve a Muslim on religious grounds there would have been hell to pay. In fact, I am sure someone would be sacked but that won't happen this time, will it?"
 
Mrs Friday said her trip to the sales in Reading, Berks, with her daughter had been ruined. She added "I have given it careful thought and still feel humiliated that, because I am purchasing a children's Bible story book, a cashier is able to object and refuse to put it through the till. Had this been a copy of the Koran I am confident any Christian person would be happy to do her job, and for this to happen in a Marks & Spencer of all places beggars belief. It will be a long, long time before I shop again at M&S."
 
Marks & Spencer have apologised to Mrs.Friday.
 
The GOS is just as outraged and surprised at this incident as anyone else - in other words, not very.
 
We all know there are plenty of narrow-minded, ignorant bigots in the world and while most of them are American, a good few are religious nuts and live in this country. It's not so surprising that every once in a while one of them will think that their belief in Scientology or Offler the Crocodile-God or the bloody Tooth Fairy or whatever entitles them to inflict their odious ignorance on normal people.
 
And Mrs.Friday, we know you're cross. You've every right to be. We're cross too.
 
But "humiliated"?
 
I don't think so. You're a great big 69-year-old lady with a superstitious belief-system of your own (or you wouldn't be buying your grandson a book of Bible stories, poor little tyke), and you're probably the equal of any six little Muslim girls. Just draw yourself up to your full height and bash her with your zimmer frame, for God's sake (and I suppose in the circumstances, yes, we really do mean "for God's sake").
 
You don't need to play the victim, and bleat about how "humiliated" you feel in order to make us feel sympathetic - we're sympathetic already. Making yourself into a victim is what they do. You know exactly who I mean. Don't stoop to their level, woman. Next thing we know you'll be banging on about how you've got a terminal illness and your husband died and your budgie's only got one leg. I mean, come on! - at 69 you're nearly old enough to have been in the Blitz, and playing for sympathy is the best you can do?
 
This is, of course, just the latest example of Muslim staff refusing to serve customers on religious grounds. In October 2006, Lloyds chemist was forced to apologise to mother Jo-Ann Thomas after a Muslim pharmacist refused her a morning-after contraceptive pill on religious grounds in Rotherham. A smoker was refused cigarettes at a Cambridge store in January last year because the Muslim shop assistant said it was against her religion to sell tobacco.
 
And Islamic checkout staff at Sainsbury's who refuse to sell alcohol are allowed to opt out of handling bottles and cans of drink by calling other staff to take their place. Other staff have refused to work stacking shelves with wine, beer and spirits and have been found alternative roles in the company.
 
Sainsbury's said they were keen to accommodate the religious beliefs of all its staff.
 

 
The GOS says: Great stuff, Sainsbury's, well done. What about the religious beliefs of your customers?
 
I thought it was illegal in this country to discriminate against anyone because of their race or religion? Why was this shop assistant able to choose who she should serve and who she should not, on the basis of the customer's religion?
 
Why isn't she up in front of a magistrate or something? After all, Samina Malik nearly went to prison, and all she did was write poetry about terrorism.
 
Mind you, it was really terrible poetry.

 

 
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