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I have come up with a way of disrupting all these mad employment tribunals

Rod Liddle says the case of Fata Lemes — a Muslim woman who claimed her dignity had been ‘violated’ by the dress she had to wear in a cocktail bar — is sadly typical of a crazy institutional structure that kowtows to every conceivable outraged sensibility

17 June 2009

12:00 AM

17 June 2009

12:00 AM

Rod Liddle says the case of Fata Lemes — a Muslim woman who claimed her dignity had been ‘violated’ by the dress she had to wear in a cocktail bar — is sadly typical of a crazy institutional structure that kowtows to every conceivable outraged sensibility

A Bosnian Muslim woman, Fata Lemes, has just won £3,000 from an employment tribunal because the Mayfair cocktail bar in which she worked required her to wear a red dress in the summer months. She said this was humiliating and made her feel ‘like a prostitute’ and ‘violated her dignity’ and therefore she refused to wear the dress. She complained and won her appeal.

Yes, it’s one of those cases again — the sort of thing the left insists never happens, is all made up in Paul Dacre’s evil factory of lies. The red dress Ms Lemes was required to wear was not in the least bit revealing, incidentally — less revealing than the slinky t-shirt worn by the woman on her Facebook site, apparently. I assume Fata is now busy applying for jobs in a pork pie factory, or a dog pound, or a synagogue, and keeping in touch with her lawyers. There’s another thing about working in a cocktail bar which might make Mohammed, pbuh, a bit twitchy. Can you work out what that might be? Hmm, let me think.


The details of this case are a shade more nuanced than usual, because Fata is a Bosnian Muslim woman rather than a full-blown Hessian-sack-over-the-head, burn-the-infidel middle eastern or Indian subcontinent Muslim woman. Bosnian Muslims, we were repeatedly assured while we expended British lives and money to liberate their country, are really friendly and don’t wear veils or any of that strange business — you’d hardly know that they are Muslims at all!

Perhaps the Bosnian interpretation of the Koran, then, is ok with alcohol but is nonetheless severe about couture. I don’t know — this is just a guess made in an attempt to excuse Fata Lemes. It may even be the case that Fata was undertaking a social experiment to see just how gullible and stupid her adopted country could be — I mean, they went to war on our behalf and gave me a home and an education while they did so … I wonder if they’d be so daft as to give me a large amount of cash for refusing to work somewhere because I claim that my sensibilities have been infringed? Now, I wonder what sort of job would involve my Muslim sensibilities being infringed on a fairly regular basis? Got it! — a cocktail bar in Mayfair! And meanwhile, for my part, I wonder how Fata would have got on in front of a Serbian employment tribunal, a panel consisting of Ratko, Radovan and Arkan.

Fata’s case is a long way from being unique. You may remember the story of another Muslim lady, Bushra Noah, who won exactly the same amount of money from a tribunal last year. Bushra ran into problems when she applied for a job in a, ahem, ‘funky and urban’ London hair salon and turned up wearing a less than funky and urban sack over her head. The salon pleaded that staff really should have a nice cool hairstyle on display to the public, but this cut no ice with the tribunal.

But this institutionalised idiocy is not confined to Muslim complainants — and when the boot is on the other foot, the reaction of the right-wing press is very different indeed. So when the London marriage registrar Lillian Ladele refused to officiate at homosexual civil partnerships because her Christian faith insisted that sodomites would and should burn in hell for eternity, and was eventually told she would not have to officiate at such ceremonies, this was reported as a victory for common sense against the massed forces of political correctness. But then, Lillian was a Christian bigot: it would have been very different had she been a Muslim bigot instead. Or had she simply told her employers that, as an entirely secular bigot, she just really hated queers and couldn’t bear to watch them holding hands with one another. Ladele’s refusal to do her job properly because it conflicted with her (I would argue) fatuous stone-age beliefs is an even more egregious example than those of either Bushra Noah or Fata Lemes. Secular marriage services are required by law to have no religious component — that is the whole point of them. And it is largely at the church’s insistence that they have no religious component. And we have them not just for unbelievers but for all manner of miscreants the church would refuse to marry. Regardless of your views about whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to enjoy civil partnerships, that is the law of the land as it stands. And if you are working as a marriage registrar and don’t like the notion, then resign and look for a job somewhere else. I wonder if a racist bigot might similarly be excused from officiating at mixed-race weddings.

The final irony of the Fata Lemes case is that the money was awarded to her not because her Muslim faith had been transgressed with that red dress, but because she had been transgressed as a woman. Those were not the grounds upon which she had based her appeal, but the tribunal seems to have decided unilaterally that those are the grounds upon which she should have based her appeal. Their point being that while waitresses were expected to wear nice red dresses in the summer months, no such demand was made of the waiters. Somehow this unsurprising fact grated with the panel, the notion that women had to wear dresses and men did not. The discrepancy seems to have grated with the panel rather more than it grated with Fata Lemes. That is because — I would contend, M’lud — that the panel was comprised of mad men and mad women, as these panels usually are.

I have thought long and hard about how we might demolish this edifice we have constructed, this folly, which kowtows to every perceived infraction of the population’s increasingly fragile sensibilities, and the solution I have come up with is mass action. We should all of us find something within our miserable working lives which conflicts with our beliefs or our dignity and take our employers to one of these tribunals presided over by mad men and mad women. A million or so fatuous cases should clog the system up for quite a while and perhaps persuade the authorities to rethink the notion that everybody can be kept perfectly happy all the time.


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