British public lashes out at retailer Marks & Spencer for Muslim policy

By JPOST.COM STAFF
December 23, 2013 18:13

Major UK retailer allows employees to refuse to sell certain foods on religious grounds.

1 minute read.



Marks & Spencer shop in central London.

m&s 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

British retailer Marks & Spencer came under fire on Monday after it was revealed that it allowed Muslim employees to refuse to sell pork and alcohol, reported AFP.

Over 8,000 people have "liked" a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the popular chain. This came after a Muslim checkout worker told a customer buying a bottle of champagne that they would have to wait for another staff member to become available in order to make the purchase, according to AFP. Drinking alcohol and eating pork are forbidden in Islam.

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In response to the massive outcry against M&S, the company has since apologized for the incident, admitting that it breached its own internal policy by forcing its staff to choose between their beliefs and their responsibilities to the supermarket, according to The Telegraph.

“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," an M&S spokesperson said.  "We regret that in the case highlighted we were not following our own internal policy."

The spokesperson also added that M&S is a secular business with an inclusive policy that welcomes all religious beliefs across their employee and customer base, and that when specific requests are made regarding religious beliefs of any persuasion, "we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them."

The negative public response to the incident highlighted the issue of whether staff should be allowed to refuse to sell certain products on religious grounds, reported  AFP.

Muslim staff in British supermarket chains Tesco, Asda and Morrisons also have the right to refuse to work the checkout counter if they objected to handling specific foods, according to AFP.

However, the head of major retailer John Lewis said employees should not be allowed to refuse to serve customers.

"This is taking it one stage beyond common sense," managing director Andy Street told BBC radio.


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