I’ve just got come from a shopping trip to Marks & Spencer and I must say that I’m pleased to have learnt before I left that they will not be implementing a policy which would have given Muslim staff permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products. Ref: The Telegraph, 23rd December 2013 (Muslim staff at Marks & Spencer can refuse to sell alcohol and pork)
You see, if such a policy had been in place, knowing that I would have an alcholic drink or two for Christmas in my shopping basket heading towards the check out, I would have scanned the members of staff and if anyone looked like a Muslim, I would not gone in their direction. I would have headed somewhere else because I didn’t want to have to queue up only to be told to go somewhere else. I would have got into this habit and in time I’d have probably done so even if I wasn’t buying alcohol or pork based products.
Don’t ask me how I would have determined whether staff members were Muslim or not. I’d have probably used stereotypes. If a staff member was wearing a head scarf of some kind, it would be obvious – wouldn’t it be? Outside of that I would have used the presumed ethnic origin of the staff member or whatever others assumptions I had stored in my mind.
Situations may have occurred whereby a “Muslim looking” staff member would have been waiting at a till to serve customers and I would walk past to someone else, even if there was a queue. The “Muslim” member of staff would have wondered why I was ignoring him or her.
If it was just me that started acting this way, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, however, I suspect that I would be one of many reacting in such a manner – consciously or subconsciously. If I reacted in such a manner, my behaviour would have been seen as odd – if I was white, the counter-assumption would have probably been made that I was racist.
The good thing is that Marks & Spencer has decided not to go ahead with the implementation of this policy and I understand that they have even apologised for even thinking of doing so. As I result, today I went to Marks & Spencer with a smile on my face to the cashier with the shortest queue with no further thought. I can also continue to shop at Marks and Spencer without the risk of offending any member of staff at the store.
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