IF A MUSLIM CAN WEAR HER VEIL TO WORK WHY IS MY CROSS FORBIDDEN?

IF A MUSLIM CAN WEAR HER VEIL TO WORK WHY IS MY CROSS FORBIDDEN?

EXCLUSIVE: BA ROW WOMAN SPEAKS OUT..

By Julie Mccaffrey

IT is smaller than a 10 pence piece and all but invisible to people standing just inches away.

Yet Nadia Eweida’s tiny white gold cross is at the centre of a huge legal row that has engulfed Britain’s biggest airline and infuriated religious groups.

Check-in worker Nadia, 55, was forced to take unpaid leave by British Airways after refusing to remove the Christian emblem. But she claims it is a clear display of double standards as Muslims can wear head scarves and Sikh males their turbans.

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“It seems that only Christians are forbidden to express their faith,” she told the Mirror. “I am not ashamed to be Christian and shouldn’t be made to feel that way.

 

“I want people to know I am a Christian when they meet me.

 

Just like people know when they meet a Muslim.”

 

The case echoes that of Fiona Bruce, the newsreader who has not worn her cross necklace on television since BBC governors debated whether it would cause offence to other religions.

 

And it bears striking similarities to the Muslim teacher Aishah Azmi, from Dewsbury, Yorkshire, who is taking legal action after being suspended for wearing a veil in lessons.

 

It will only add to the row over religious clothing after Jack Straw asked Muslim women to ditch their veils.

 

Hundreds of Nadia’s colleagues have demanded she be reinstated and yesterday Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain insisted:

 

“Frankly, I think the British Airways order for her not to wear a cross was loopy.”

 

As backing for Nadia grows, BA is faced with rumours of staff strikes, Christian boycotts and a slump in ticket sales.

 

JOHN Andrews, communications officer for the diocese of Bath and Wells, said: “I think BA is being extremely offensive to members of the Christian faith.

 

“It is rather more than an ornament. It is more than an item of jewellery.”

 

Meanwhile Nadia, from Twickenham, West London, is set to sue for religious discrimination.

 

She said: “My case shows a company so scared of upsetting a minority that it has swung too far to the other side and upset the majority.

 

“It is clearly not fair that I am prohibited from wearing my cross, when Muslim ladies are allowed to wear a hijab and Sikhs freely wear turbans.

 

“They immediately identify that person’s religion. I imagine that’s why the teacher in Dewsbury is fighting to wear her veil.

 

She should be allowed to wear it in the classroom. I respect her views but what I don’t respect is one rule for some and another for others.”

 

Ironically, the row started the day after Nadia, who has an exemplary seven-year record with British Airways and is based at Heathrow’s Terminal Four, attended a training course on diversity and dignity at work.

 

“We spent the day learning how to integrate and understand different cultures, religions, sexual orientations and political allegiances,” she recalled.

 

“The next day my duty manager asked me to take off my cross. I said it was an expression of my faith. But she refused to accept that.

 

“I’d worn it many times, but all of a sudden it was an issue. “I was sent to see the customer services manager, who then sent me home.”

 

NADIA, who is single and looks after her elderly mother, was born in Egypt to an Egyptian father and English mother.

 

She believes that, instead of constantly trying not to offend a minority faith, employers should demonstrate equal consideration towards people of all faiths.

 

“As a Christian in a Muslim country, I was in the minority and held tightly to my faith,” she explained. “I wear a cross because it reminds me what Jesus Christ did for mankind. I think I am within my rights to wear it.”

 

Nadia, who attends church up to seven times a week, has the backing of her local MP Vincent Cable, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who called BA “disgraceful and petty”. And she also has the backing of her union, the TGWU.

 

However Nadia, whose great grandfather Thomas Paine helped found the Salvation Army, claims to be overwhelmed by all the attention.

 

She said: “I didn’t expect this to escalate. And it seems that the more people who know about my case, the angrier they become.

 

“But I am not getting angrier, I am growing more determined.

 

“My ultimate aim is firstly to win an apology from British Airways, saying sorry to me for their behaviour and sorry to all their Christian workers who wish to express their faith.

 

“Secondly, I want to return to the job I loved. I’m not ashamed of what has happened, and if I go back I won’t have my tail between my legs.

 

“Sometimes it takes one person to make a change by putting their head above the parapet. And if that has to be me, then so be it. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways but I feel I must stand up for the rights of all Christians, and all citizens.”

 

A BA spokeswoman emphasised that Miss Eweida has not been suspended and said an appeal was due to be heard some time next week.

 

She said BA recognised that employees may wish to wear jewellery including religious symbols. “Our policy states these items can be worn, underneath the uniform. There is no ban.

 

“This rule applies for all jewellery and religious symbols on chains and is not specific to the Christian cross.”

 

 

julie.mccaffrey@mirror.co.uk

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