Heathrow Airport worker challenges 'anti-Islam' dismissal

Nohad Halawi is contesting her dismissal from a Heathrow Airport duty free counter where she worked for over a decade(AP)

A Christian woman who was dismissed from her work at a Heathrow airport beauty counter over claims she was "anti-Islam" is taking her case to an employment appeal tribunal today.

Nohad Halawi denies the accusation, which arose after a conversation she had with a colleague, in which she described him as a "man of God", was taken by another Muslim colleague to be a criticism of Islam.

She is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, which says that although the dispute was resolved by her manager, another Muslim colleague started spreading false rumours that Mrs Halawi was "anti-Islam".

This led to the management taking the decision to suspend and withdraw her airside pass, which is required to work at the airport.

In June 2012 an employment tribunal ruled that as Mrs Halawi worked at the beauty counter on a freelance basis, she was not a staff employee and therefore had no employment rights, meaning she was unable to challenge the grounds for her dismissal.

Mrs Halawi had been working at the beauty counter for over 10 years before her dismissal and was paid by Caroline South Associates, which supplies people to work in the airport's World Duty Free stores.

The Christian Legal Centre claims that Mrs Halawi was disadvantaged throughout the investigation process and that her side of the story was ignored by her managers.

In the past, Mrs Halawi has spoken of a campaign of 'race hate' by a small number of 'extremist' colleagues who she claimed told her she would go to Hell if she did not convert to Islam and left a Christian colleague in tears after bullying her for wearing a cross necklace.

An Employment Appeal Tribunal is meeting in London today to rule on whether Mrs Halawi has employment rights before she can go on to challenge the nature of her dismissal.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre, said: "The circumstances of Nohad's dismissal have got to be challenged. In order for this to happen we need a recognition from the judge that she has employment rights.

"Although at this point we are only dealing with the issue of employment rights, there are bigger issues on the horizon. There is a deference shown to Muslims in the workplace which is not shown to Christians.

"Nohad was effectively dismissed on the basis of false claims against her which were not properly dealt with or investigated. The nature of the accusations also suggests that there is a security risk at Heathrow – one of the biggest ports of entry into the UK. The case needs to progress so that these issues can be dealt with."