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c. 2008 Religion News Service

Muslim worker files complaint over handling alcohol

LONDON (RNS) A Muslim worker has launched legal action against Britain’s largest supermarket chain because his warehouse job required him to lift cartons of alcoholic drinks, which he said violates his religious beliefs.

Muhammed Ahmed told an employment tribunal in Birmingham, England, that he was treated unfairly when his employers at Tesco put him to work loading alcoholic beverages on fork-lift trucks last Christmas.

“It’s against our religion, that we are not allowed to handle alcohol,” Ahmed testified. “I was asking for my rights.”

In Britain, he added, “there’s equal opportunities that should protect me and my beliefs.”

“I am not saying I am a perfect person,” the 32-year-old worker insisted, “but there was a conflict with my beliefs.”

The dispute mirrors similar fights in the United States, where Muslim cashiers at Target objected to handling pork products (which Islam deems unclean) and taxi drivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refused to accept passengers returning from trips with alcohol.

Tesco lawyers claimed that Ahmed was told at the start of his employment that he would be handling alcohol as a routine part of the job, and that it insisted that its managers “are trained to be culturally sensitive.”

The supermarket said in a statement that it has an “open-door policy” for such issues because “everyone is welcome to work” at Tesco.

_ Al Webb

CAIR asks IRS to investigate `Obsession’ videos

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged the IRS to investigate the distribution of more than 20 million “anti-Muslim” DVDs to see if the distributor, the Clarion Fund, has violated its tax-exempt status.

The producers of the film, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” say it will “change the way you look at the world.” It was delivered to homes as a newspaper insert.

“Independent observers have suggested that the distribution of the DVD was an obvious attempt by the Clarion Fund to participate in campaign activities and intervene in the 2008 presidential election,” CAIR said.

The film was distributed after the Labor Day start of the election season, and 95 percent of the papers that carried the DVD were in swing states. CAIR has asked the IRS to strip the Clarion Fund of its tax-exempt status if it finds evidence of wrongdoing.

“A non-profit group’s tax-exempt status should not be misused to promote political candidates or to influence the outcome of an election,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director.

An IRS official declined to comment about the investigation because of privacy obligations.

An investigative report from the St. Petersburg Times tied the Clarion Fund to the Israel-based group Aish HaTorah. The report claimed that the Clarion Fund’s address was the same as that of the fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah. The group that produced the film, HonestReporting, had the same address on its 2006 tax return.

Aish HaTorah has also posted a link to the controversial film on its Web site.

_ Ashley Gipson

Quote of the Day: New Jersey Turnpike Authority spokesman Joe Orlando

(RNS) “Given the symbolism of the number, and the fact that it is obviously done in the middle of nowhere, I can safely say that I’m not eager to meet the rocket scientist doing it.”

_ Joe Orlando, spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, commenting on the repeated theft of the 66.6 mile marker along the New Jersey Turnpike. He was quoted by The Associated Press (Oct. 1).

KRE/LF END RNS

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