A Christian worker at London's Heathrow Airport has been dismissed after claims that she had insulted muslims.
Despite working at Terminal 3 for 13 years, and having many friends of different religions amongst the staff, Nohad Halawi was summarily fired following un-substantiated complaints by five muslims about her conduct.
It appears that they took offence 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 that she said Alawi, which was his branch of Islam.
Mrs Halawi has been told by Autogrill Retail UK Limited, trading as World Duty Free; and Caroline South Associates, for whom she sold perfumes and other goods, 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 told she was no longer welcome to trade at Heathrow Airport. She has been threatened with costs if she attempts to go to an Employment Tribunal, despite the fact that this forum is cost free.
If Mrs Halawi's allegations about the influence of Islamic fundamentalism at Heathrow is true, this case raises huge issues of national security, religious discrimination and the rights and welfare of thousands of workers across the country who are 'technically' outside Employment Law, but are used by many agencies as 'employees.' Mrs Halawi has asked the Christian Legal Centre for support. They have instructed Human Rights Barrister, Paul Diamond, to represent her.
In an attempt to bring into the open the potential security and fundamental religious and employment rights issues of this case, Mrs Halawi is seeking to take both Autogrill Retail UK Limited and Caroline South Associates to the Employment Tribunal - fully expecting both to ask the Court for a technical 'Strike Out' on the grounds that neither had any employer responsibility to her. However, such is the seriousness of the issues that her barrister, Mr Diamond, has asked that the Court do not make such a judgment until the facts of the case are heard.
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.
An Open Petition, signed by 22 staff at Heathrow, including muslims, states:
"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.
"WDF is a large organisation that employs individuals from many cultural and religious backgrounds... whilst some may have a different point of view on a multitude of subjects, it should not mean that this should allow certain individuals to use this fact to concoct a tissue of lies and maliciously use them in a concerted manner against a fellow colleague with the view to securing their dismissal. We find this incident particularly worrying as it appears to allow individuals to perniciously use the 'race and religion card' to besmirch a fellow colleague, with the intention of securing their dismissal from gainful employment."
In further evidence to employers, more staff, supporting Nohad, heavily criticise a WDF manager, stating: "He discriminates against us and only favours the bullies and those who always give him gifts and testers.
"Those bullies who accused our colleague are extremists working with us, and he supports them. They try to convert us to Islam and we really find their ideas distasteful to discuss such religious matters on the shop floor, yet they twisted it around to put the blame on our dear colleague. Her only crime was to defend a colleague who has been bullied and harassed by these individuals. We have all been too scared to report these individuals as we all know we will not be taken seriously."
Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
"Nohad's case is one of the most serious we have ever handled. It raises huge issues. First, there is the level of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent at our main point of entry to the UK. Secondly, there are very real issues of religious discrimination, which it would appear those in authority are turning a blind eye to, using the current loop-holes in employment law as an excuse. Thirdly, there is a very big issue of justice. 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. This is a case which, if simply 'Struck Out' by the Employment Tribunal as a technicality, 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."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
In the past, Andrea worked as Public Policy Director for the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, an organisation with a membership of over two thousand lawyers. She was called to the Bar in 1988. Initially she specialised in Criminal and Family Law.
Andrea is married with 4 children.
View all articles by Andrea Williams