A decision by Sainsbury's supermarkets in the United Kingdom to exempt their Muslim employees from dealing with alcohol while on duty has triggered accusations favoring Muslims and encouraging their isolation, according to press reports.
As a private company that has the right to issue any laws that are in its best interest as well as that of its employees, Sainsbury's decided to relieve Muslim staff from all alcohol related activities. That includes selling, unloading, transferring, and shelf displaying, Saudi daily Al-Riyadh reported Tuesday.
But opponents to the decision believe it to be biased towards Muslims. They also argue it helps Muslims "cocoon themselves" and become isolated from the rest of the British society.
Sainsbury's administration, however, defend its decision, arguing that many of its employees are Muslims who, despite their higher qualifications, agreed to take these jobs. “They are torn between their beliefs and financial need. The company understood that and decided to make it less stressful for them.”
Critics, on the other hand, emphasize the inconvenience this would cause to shoppers who will need to move to another cashier if they're buying booze and the clerk is Muslim.
But the company responded that other non-Muslim clerks will be available.
The decision further triggered fears other religious groups may seek similar treatment. Catholics consider selling contraceptives a violation of their doctrine, and Jews are demanding their exemption from selling pork.
The company defended the move as nothing different from the special treatment pregnant women get when they are assigned the type of work most adequate for their condition. The company stated it only supports its employees and has no ulterior motives.