Muslim Shelf Stockers Can Refuse to Handle Alcohol, Court Decides

25 February 2011

A Muslim supermarket employee in Germany was sacked when he refused on religious grounds to stock shelves with bottles of alcohol. Now the country’s highest labor court has ruled that the man’s objection was justified.

It’s not the first time a Muslim worker in Germany has gone to court over the right to practice his or her religion in the workplace. A number of high-profile cases in recent years have involved Muslim women who wanted the right to wear a headscarf while doing their jobs.

But the particulars of this case are unusual — and controversial: Germany’s highest labor court has ruled that a Muslim supermarket employee can refuse to handle alcohol on religious grounds.

The case in question involved a Muslim man who was employed in a supermarket in the northern German city of Kiel. He refused to stock shelves with alcoholic drinks, saying that his religion forbade him from any contact with alcohol, and was dismissed as a result in March 2008.

In a ruling Thursday, Germany’s Federal Labor Court confirmed that employees may refuse to perform a specific task on religious grounds. If there is an alternative task they can do which is acceptable to their religion and practical for the company, then the employer is obliged to let them do it. The firm can only dismiss the worker if there is no realistic alternative.

French store, Casino, pulls halal sausages from shelves

News Agencies – February 11, 2011

The French food store Casino has announced it will pull Herta sausages (of the Nestle brand) off its shelves as the product is suspected not to be halal. The supermarket chain announced it would conduct independent testing to guarantee that pork products were not within the halal-certified food. The Mosque of Paris is in charge of the certification of halal products by Nestle.

Clumsy Anti-Terror Investigation: Hilal Sezgin’s Novel about Muslims in Germany

1 October 2010

The new novel by Hilal Sezgin begins with a fictional terrorist attack on Germany – an attack that is not only deeply unsettling for the nation, but also for the book’s heroine. In a humorous and light-hearted tone, the German-Turkish writer and columnist tells of coexistence in a nervous society that suspects every devout Muslim of being a potential terrorist.

It is something one hardly dares to imagine: Islamic terrorists carry out an attack during the New Year period. They managed to poison the contents of numerous bottles of sparkling wine before they hit the supermarket shelves. Nine people die as a result of the poison, and countless more have to receive medical treatment. The entire country is plunged into a state of anxiety and fears that other foodstuffs may have been poisoned. Fortunately, this story is not real, but an invention by the writer and journalist Hilal Sezgin, an idea for a clever and entertaining novel on Germany’s relationship with Islam and the Muslim members of its society (“Mihriban pfeift auf Gott. Ein deutsch-türkischer Schelmenroman.” [Mihriban does not care about God. A German-Turkish picaresque novel]).

Controversy on halal meat in Italian supermarkets

August 22, 2010

Coop and Carrefour, two famous brands of supermarket, are planning to sell halal meat in their stores in the region of Piedmont. The supermarkets actions will simply the life of the Piedmontese Muslim community; however on the other hand it has triggered a passionate debate by animal rights associations which have launched a boycott and information campaign. The animal rights groups are critical of the Islamic method of killing animals, which calls for the animal to be conscious when it is slaughtered. The traditional procedure adopted by Italian supermarkets, instead, requires that the animal is anaesthetized before being killed so as to reduce the suffering, which leads to lower levels of toxins in the animal’s blood and flesh. To tone down the controversy, Coop has assured that the Imam responsible for the slaughtering has accepted the use of anesthesia. However, it will be the Muslim consumers, who represent a growing segment of the Italian market that will decide the success of this initiative.

Another Islamic Center Controversy in Vienna

In the Viennese district of Neustadt, a project to build a 500 square meter Islamic center,
including a large building with prayer spaces, a supermarket and a kebab restaurant, has given
worry to the owners of six neighboring garden plots. However, the vice-mayor of Vienna,
Wolfgang Trofer, has stated that he cannot comprehend the complaints, and quite to the contrary
has been supportive of the move by the Turkish association Havas to move to the outskirts of the
city from their current location. Trofer continued by saying that the move will be a relief for the
neighborhood of its present location, where the building was “bursting at the seams.”

Dutch supermarket managers face discrimination charges

Mangers at three locations of a popular grocery store in the Netherlands face charges for refusing to employ workers with Moroccan heritage, stemming from a case begun last year. The managers, from Haarlem and The Hague, are charged with professional discrimination and face up to one year in jail.

Number of female converts to Islam on the rise in Britain

It’s a controversial time for British women to be wearing the hijab, the basic Muslim headscarf. Last month, Belgium became the first European country to pass legislation to ban the burka (the most concealing of Islamic veils), calling it a “threat” to female dignity, while France looks poised to follow suit. In Italy earlier this month, a Muslim woman was fined €500 (£430) for wearing the Islamic veil outside a post office.

And yet, while less than 2 per cent of the population now attends a Church of England service every week, the number of female converts to Islam is on the rise. At the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, women account for roughly two thirds of the “New Muslims” who make their official declarations of faith there – and most of them are under the age of 30.

Conversion statistics are frustratingly patchy, but at the time of the 2001 Census, there were at least 30,000 British Muslim converts in the UK. According to Kevin Brice, of the Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University, this number may now be closer to 50,000 – and the majority are women. “Basic analysis shows that increasing numbers of young, university-educated women in their twenties and thirties are converting to Islam,” confirms Brice.

“Our liberal, pluralistic 21st-century society means we can choose our careers, our politics – and we can pick and choose who we want to be spiritually,” explains Dr Mohammad S. Seddon, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Chester. We’re in an era of the “religious supermarket”, he says.

Concerns over labelling of halal meat

The lack of a single label for halal food in Switzerland can pose problems for the 400 000 Swiss Muslims. Halal food has become an important market for companies such as Swiss food giant Nestlé, which made $5 billion in the sector in 2008, and large-scale supermarket chains such as Coop and Manor have begun selling halal products over the last few years.

However, the lack of standardization has meant that the halal label does not always mean the same thing: for example, Coop states that in order to comply with Swiss law, animals are stunned before being slaughtered, and the “halal” element derives essentially from the presence of a Muslim person during this procedure. This lack of consistency has led some mosques to draw up their own lists of approved butchers, such as in Lausanne, while in Ticino Muslims often purchase their meat from nearby Italy, where ritual slaughter is allowed.

Halal-Focused Supermarket Opens in Nanterre, France

A new halal-focused supermarket, Hal’Shop de Nanterre, has opened in Nanterre catering to France’s emerging “beurgeosie.” All of its products are 100% halal. The store is located a few steps from an RER stop and occupies 200m2. The owner has said he would not hire niqab-wearing women as it would impede from customer service.

Italian grocery adds halal foods, more and more companies target immigrant consumers

Ipercoop, a famous Italian supermarket, has opened a halal corner in one of its branches near Rome. It is the first of its kind in Italy.

This step is the latest in time for Coop in its attempt to conquer the promising market of ‘foreign’ consumers in Italy. Immigration, in fact, represents a substantial economic opportunity in Italy since immigrants spend half of their wages locally. Large companies such as supermarkets, communication companies and banks have thus started targeting more immigrant consumers.