By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (BosNewsLife)– A Christian worker at London’s Heathrow Airport has been dismissed after claims she insulted Muslims, raising fears that “radical Islam” has now arrived “at the heart of the UK border,” her defense team and supporters told BosNewsLife Tuesday, November 29.
Advocacy group Christian Concern (CC) said Nohad Halawi, who worked in the airport’s duty-free section as a perfume saleswoman for 13 years, was “summarily fired” in July following “un-substantiated complaints by five Muslims about her conduct”.
CC said the dismissal came although she has “many friends of different religions amongst the staff.” It appears, the group explained, that Muslims “took offense at something Mrs. Halawi said after mishearing her. She had described a Muslim colleague as an allawhi – ‘man of God’ in Arabic, yet another worker who overheard her thought she said Alawi, which was his branch of Islam.”
Halawi reportedly said she was told by those involved in the complaints to “go to Hell” for her religion and that Jews were responsible for the September 11 terror attacks against the United States. A friend, she added, was reduced to tears after being bullied for wearing a cross.
She has pledged to take the case to what is known as the Employment Tribunal, CC confirmed. “In her submission to the Tribunal, Mrs Halawi has wide support from other Heathrow staff, including other Muslims, as she tries to clear her name, regain her job and expose the identity of supporters of radical Islam at the heart of the UK border,” the group said.
Autogrill Retail UK Limited, trading as World Duty Free, and Caroline South Associates, for whom she sold perfumes and other goods, reportedly said in a reaction that “as a part-time, commission-based worker in Duty Free,” she has “no legal employment rights, either from the company, nor Caroline South Associates.”
She has had her security pass removed by Heathrow Duty Free and was told she was no longer welcome to trade at Heathrow Airport, CC said. “She has been threatened with costs if she attempts to go to an Employment Tribunal, despite the fact that this forum is cost free,” the group added.
There was no immediate response from officials about the alleged threat.
Halawi, who came to Britain from Lebanon in 1977, is being helped in her case against the dismissal by lawyers of the Christian Legal Centre. They say Halawi’s it raises important legal issues including whether Muslims and Christians are treated differently by employers.
“Nohad’s case is one of the most serious we have ever handled,” said the Centre’s Chief Executive Andrea Minichiello Williams. “Nohad represents tens of thousands of people across the UK who work, in all but name, as ‘employees’ for companies and yet have absolutely no employment rights.”
If the case is “simply ‘struck out’ by the Employment Tribunal as a technicality, it will demonstrate how woefully inadequate the UK’s employment legislation is, and will ensure that the fundamental security and religious issues of this case are not properly investigated,” Williams added.
Halawi is also supported by 22 staff members at Heathrow, including Muslims, who wrote in an open petition:
“We are shocked and saddened by the recent dismissal of our colleague and friend, Nohad, as a result of malicious and unfounded allegations made against her.”
It comes amid growing concern among some Christians that their faith is being marginalized. Recently George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, called for Christians in Britain to be given greater legal protection following a series of reported cases where they were disciplined or dismissed for practicing their faith.