Secularism

Plucking at the threads of social cohesion

So, here we go again. Another one of these stories in the news today:

A Muslim catering manager has accused the Metropolitan Police of religious discrimination as he was told he may have to handle sausages and bacon.

The man is now suing the police.

These stories are the acids that break down community cohesion. They’re poisononus and must stop.

This is how to stop these stories and the understandable resentments they cause.

 The Law has to take a firm stance and just say no. There is no discrimination if you impose limits on yourself. If you take a religious, philosophical, moral or ethical stance on an issue that prevents you from doing things that the average person does, it should not be incumbent on the law to accommodate you.

Religious people have to accept that their choices involve making sacrifices. If your religion (or philosophy) asks you to start doing xor stop doing y, then that is your choice. It is for you to construct your life around your moral, ethical, religious and philosophical choices. It is not for society to change to make accommodations and causing inconvenience to others. If accommodations are made, these ought to be accepted with appreciation. They should not be demanded as a right.

If there are aspects of the job you can’t or won’t do, then that job is not for you. 

I am not unsympathetic. I find myself in a similar position to Hasanali Khoja, the caterer in question. I’m a vegetarian. I’m also a pretty good cook and have often thought a career in restaurateuring or catering quite attractive. But, as a vegetarian, it is simply not practical. My decision not to handle or eat meat has meant this particular avenue – despite my skills and talent – is – by my own choice – simply not open to me.

Today, of course, there are a lot more vegetarian restaurants and were I, at this stage of my life, seeking to change careers, there would be a few more options open than there were a few years ago. Similarly, if Mr Khoja has a problem handling certain types of food, he should get a job at a Halaal restaurant or caterer – of which there are many. For either of us to seek employment catering to the general public shifts the burden of our lifestyle choices on to an unwilling public.

This is unfair. What’s more, the average reasonable person intuitively knows it’s unfair. And this is where inter-community resentment comes from. Unreasonable demands – particularly those that involve large payouts from the public purse – can create tensions and ill-will that go much further than the individual involved. This too is unfair.

In short, nothing good can come of this.

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