Vice check, aisle five

Fear of giving offence is killing our culture

A week ago The Sunday Times reported that some Muslim workers in Sainsbury’s are refusing to check out purchases of alcohol on the debatable ground that it’s against their religion. Whenever the sinful stuff is presented by a customer at the till, the Muslim expects an infidel colleague to hurry over and sully his or her hands with the transaction instead.

This is preposterous and a depressing sign of the times. But the painful truth is it would be just as preposterous to blame the Sainsbury’s Muslims. For years now ethnic minorities have been encouraged to insist on their cultural differences and on their human right to have these differences respected and actively promoted. It is hardly surprising that they have responded by doing so. It is those who have encouraged them who are to blame.

The point about this story is not the absurd demand, but that Sainsbury’s gave into it, quite unnecessarily, of its own free will. It wasn’t even being pressed to do so by any prominent Muslim figures. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said last week: “This is some kind of overenthusiasm. One expects professional behaviour from people working in a professional capacity and this shows a lack of maturity. The fault lies with the employee who is exploiting and misusing their goodwill.”

Surely the fault lies with Sainsbury’s, for cultural funk. And it lies with all those others who out of some strange abandonment of common sense – such as the government’s laissez-faire guidelines on wearing Muslim veils in schools last week – bottle out.


Fear of giving offence is killing our culture - Times Online



  1. Cain concludes, with true Aussie delicacy “I totally respect a person’s right to express their faith. But no one is asking these checkout operators to open the Smirnoff and have a swig… and no one is asking these medical students to shag the patients with STIs after a bender. There is a choice here, but shirking your professional responsibilities isn’t among them.” AIM