UK: Muslim checkout staff can refuse to sell drink

Muslim supermarket checkout staff have been given the right to refuse to sell alcohol to customers.

At least one chain has allowed workers to call in a colleague to take their place when customers are buying beer, wine or spirits.

Those with religious objections to selling drink have been asked to raise their hands so that a colleague can step in.

Staff have also been allowed to avoid stacking shelves with alcohol.

The system by which a checkout worker can raise their hand to avoid selling alcohol – much in the same way staff under 18 have to raise their hand to get the permission of a supervisor to sell drink – has been introduced by Sainsbury’s.

The chain operates the practice at at least one store in North London, where one checkout worker is regularly replaced by Muslim colleagues who are prepared to sell alcohol and handle packages or bottles containing it.

Sainsbury’s said yesterday that it operates a ‘flexible’ system in which store managers make their own decisions on what practices suit the needs of staff and the demands of trade.

A spokesman said: “We are flexible and we will accommodate religious needs as far as we can. We don’t have a hard and fast rule.”

Muslim groups praised the store for its understanding of religious needs.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “By selling alcohol you are not committing a sin. You are just doing the job you are paid for.

“Muslim employees have a duty to their employer and in supermarkets most people would accept that in selling alcohol you are merely passing it through a checkout. That is hardly going to count against you on the day of judgement.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday October 1, 2007.
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