A Christian woman who was fired from her job after complaining about religious harassment by Muslim colleagues has taken her case to the Court of Appeal today, June 25.
Nohad Halawi, who worked as a saleswoman at Heathrow airport for 13 years, says she raised her concerns about being subject to abuse from Muslim staff several times. She contends that she was taunted by colleagues for her "shi**y Jesus" and was compelled to defend a fellow Christian who chose to wear a cross.
She alleges that her Muslim colleagues then made up false accusations that she is "anti-Islam" and this resulted in her airside pass, which allowed her to trade at the duty free section in Terminal 3, being taken away.
Employed by Autogrill Retail UK Limited, Halawi was hired as a commission-based worker and was thus told she had no legal rights to contest her dismissal, despite a petition signed by 22 of her former colleagues – including Muslims – which argued she had indeed been the victim of "malicious and unfounded allegations".
"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," the petition stated.
Her case – first brought to light in 2011 – is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which contends that unsubstantiated claims were made against Halawi regarding her conduct.
Halawi's case was, however, later rejected by two employment tribunals, The Guardian reports, but she is now challenging this decision in the court of appeal.
According to the newspaper, a judge who ruled on the second of Halawi's tribunals has said he had an "uneasy feeling" that the dismissed worker "could have been the victim of discrimination and yet have no right to complain to a tribunal".
Her lawyers will argue today that Halawi is "entitled to protection from discrimination under European law".
CLC chief executive, Andrea Williams, has said in a statement: "This is a clear case of injustice involving a Christian worker which was obvious to many of Nohad's colleagues – including some Muslim colleagues – who signed a petition protesting against her dismissal.
"In order for us to challenge Nohad's unfair dismissal, and the unequal treatment of Christians in the workplace, we need a judge to rule that she was in fact employed. This is why we're supporting Nohad as her case goes to the court of appeal."
In relation to Halawi's case, the CLC has previously voiced concerns about religious discrimination and the rights of workers, as well as suggesting that those who began a slander campaign against Halawi are Muslim extremists.
"It raises huge issues. First, there is the level of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent at our main point of entry to the UK," Williams said.
"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."