November 27, 2011
By Pat Dollard
A Christian worker has launched a landmark legal action after she lost her job when she blew the whistle on what she says was a campaign of “race hate” by fundmentalist Muslims.
Nohad Halawi, who worked at Heathrow Airport, is suing her former employers for unfair dismissal, claiming that she and other Christian staff at the airport were victims of systematic harassment because of their religion.
She claims that she was told that she would go to Hell for her religion, that Jews were responsible for the September 11th terror attacks, and that a friend was reduced to tears having been bullied for wearing a cross.
Her case is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, who say it raises important legal issues and also questions over whether Muslims and Christians are treated differently by employers.
It comes amid growing concern among some Christians that their faith is being marginalised and follows calls from Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, for Christians to be given greater legal protection in the wake of a series of cases where they have been disciplined or dismissed for practising their faith.
It also raises further questions over race relations at Heathrow Airport.
Last week, Arieh Zucker, a Jewish businessman, complained that he has been repeatedly singled out for full-body scans by Muslim security staff at the airport.
The 41-year-old mortgage broker from London has accused them of “race hate” and is threatening to sue for racial discrimination after being made to “feel like a criminal” while being scanned.
Mrs Halawi’s case centres on whether she was treated unfairly when she lost her job in World Duty Free in Terminal 3 after she spoke out over what she described as bullying and intimidation by her Muslim colleagues of her and other Christians.
She said that she was the subject of a complaint by an Islamic colleague which was specious and that when she raised her own concerns as a Christian, she was the one who was dismissed.
Now she is distraught at losing her job on allegations made by what she describes as a small group of “extremist” Muslims.
Mrs Halawi, 47, said: “I have been sacked on the basis of unsubstantiated complaints so there is now great fear amongst my former colleagues that the same could happen to them if one of the Muslims turns on them.
“This is supposed to be a Christian country, but the law seems to be on the side of the Muslims.”
A mother of two, she says that she had always got on well with her Muslim colleagues and relations between staff of different faiths had been good in the past, but that the atmosphere became increasingly uncomfortable with a growing number of employees espousing “fundamentalist Islam”.
“They said that 9/11 served the Americans right and that they hated the West, but that they had come here because they want to convert people to Islam.
“They say that Jesus is s***** [shitty] and bullied a Christian friend of mine so much for wearing her crosses that she came to me crying.”
In May, five of her Muslim colleagues complained to David Tunnicliffe, the trading manager at World Duty Free, accusing her of being anti-Islamic following a heated conversation in the store.
The row had stemmed from her description of a Muslim colleague as an allawhi, which means ‘man of God’ in Arabic. Another Muslim overheard this and thought she said Alawi, which was his branch of Islam.
Two days after the meeting she received a letter, which said the “store approval” – the Heathrow security pass – needed to work at World Duty Free was being removed because her behaviour was deemed to be unacceptable.
“I believe that the breakdown in relationship between yourself and some of your colleagues has contributed to this situation and has led to a number of inappropriate conversationstaking place,” the letter said.
“Whilst I do not believe that you may have meant to be offensive, I believe that it was not unreasonable for the individuals who either heard these comments, or who they were directed at to find them offensive, and they are extremely inappropriate.”
However, the only comments she made which Mr Tunnicliffe claimed were offensive relate to her accusing a Muslim colleague of having “extremist leaflets” and asking another Muslim why Jesus was being described as “s*****”.
She was paid on a freelance basis by Caroline South Associates, a fragrance and cosmetics agency that provides staff to work in World Duty Free, and was told that she would not be able to continue working without her pass.
A petition signed by 28 colleagues, some of them Muslims, argued that she has been dismissed on the basis of “malicious lies”, but failed to see her reinstated.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said that the case is one of the most serious they have handled.
“It raises huge issues,” she said.
“First, there is the level of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent at our main point of entry to the UK.