UK supermarkets split on Muslim staff handling alcohol, pork: report

Marks & Spencer gives permission for them to refuse, while Qatar-backed Sainsbury’s said it was part of their job
By Staff writer
Mon 23 Dec 2013 12:00 PM

Supermarkets in the UK are split on the heated topic as to whether Muslim staff should be given permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products on the grounds of religious reason, according to a report by The Telegraph newspaper.

The issue came to light in a report last week when a Muslim shop assistant asked a customer who was buying alcohol for Christmas to wait until a non-Muslim staff member was available to serve them. An investigation by UK’s The Telegraph newspaper has highlighted the differing stance British grocery retailers in the UK have taken to the issue.

Marks & Spencer has issued a statement saying Muslim staff could refuse to serve customers who had alcohol or pork products among their purchases.

However, rival Sainsbury’s, which is 25.9 percent owned by Qatar, said while Muslim staff did not drink alcohol or eat pork, there was no reason why they could not handle it as part of their job, the report said.

“If a [religious] belief involves not eating or drinking something in particular, they can still handle the food or drink as part of their job,” a Sainsbury’s source was quoted as saying.

Tesco, the UK’s largest shopping chain, said it would consider each case on merit but said it “made no sense” to hire staff who would refuse to carry out certain tasks which it considered part of the job description.

Asda said it did not ask Muslim staff to work on its cash registers if they had an issue with handling certain products, while Morrisons reportedly said it would “respect and work around anyone’s wishes not to handle specific products for religious or cultural reasons”.

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