Not Saussure

December 20, 2006

Stewardess banned from carrying Bible

Filed under: Law, Religion — notsaussure @ 3:09 pm

Anxious for her fifteen minutes of fame Determined to take a principled stand, a bmi hostie has

decided to take bmi to an employment tribunal because it refused to allow her to carry a Bible on flights to Saudi Arabia.

The stewardess, who has not been named, claims that she has been subject to discrimination because of her faith.

She is understood to have deep religious convictions and carries a Bible with her at all times.

But bmi, which is the only British scheduled carrier to fly to the country after British Airways pulled out of the route, insisted that it was only following Foreign Office advice.

The story continues,

The Foreign Office website informs travellers to Saudi Arabia: “The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol, pork products and religious books, apart from the Koran, and artefacts are forbidden.”

Furthermore,

A spokesman for Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: “It is worrying that a British company should be instructing its staff to obey local customs regulations conform to practices which are in violation of international standards on religious freedom.

“The Saudi government prohibits the public practice of other religions and the possession of non-Islamic religious objects has often led to arrests.”

Bmi seem to have been as reasonable as possible about it; they’ve offered to switch her to short-haul routes where she can carry her Bible without problems, but she ain’t having it. Ulitmately, though, as they say in the report, they can’t alter their long-haul schedules to accommodate their cabin staffs’ convenience.

The discrimination claim’s a non-starter, I think; they’ve presumably banned all staff, no matter what their religion, from taking into Saudi items the authorities there view as contraband. Certainly the Saudis’ policies are utterly wrong; indeed a principled person might refuse to set foot in the country while these policies remain, even if this principled refusal puts them to the inconvenience of changing their shift rotas or, if necessary, looking for a new job where they can continue to work long-haul flights, but to destinations other than Saudi.

I’m not sure what stand the airline should take on this. My immediate reaction is that they should just let her get on with it and sort out her problems with the Saudis herself, but this might mean they had to fly back a hostie short and that HM’s consular staff were put to unnecessary trouble at the taxpayers’ expense.

Though I see from a post on pprune that, in practice, she’d probably not only find they turned a blind eye to Bibles but that she could buy her Christmas decorations there. After all, alcohol’s banned, too, but it doesn’t seem to be that difficult to obtain a drink while you’re in Saudi, or so I’m told. You just take the consequences if you get caught, and you could argue that, ultimately, the airline should let its staff take the consequences of their own actions.

That, though, would be a mistake, I think, because the consequences would also have to be born by the airline’s customers, who’d by flying from Saudi to the UK with a hostie short, and its shareholders, who’d have to put up with the consequences of any irritation from the Saudi authorities towards the airline for putting them in the embarassing position of having to enforce their appalling laws against this woman. Funny how, when it comes to such disputes, no one ever seems particularly concerned about what the customers and shareholders might have to say about the matter.


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6 Comments »

  1. I agree with your analysis. However, your story link is buggered (it goes to some kind of software add-on page).

    Comment by john b — December 20, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

  2. Oops. Sorry about that. Thanks for pointing it out. Now fixed.

    Comment by notsaussure — December 20, 2006 @ 5:56 pm

  3. You know I count myself Christian and yet I can’t agree with the woman here. This seems like provocation. A small pocket copy maybe but fair’s fair. We moan about the veil – it should be when in Rome …

    Comment by james higham — December 20, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  4. Me, too, James. No matter how strongly she feels about it, I can’t believe that carrying her Bible with her constitutes a religious obligation as opposed to a personal preference, and even it did, bmi seem to have been as accommodating as they can.

    I wonder if the real story isn’t that she’s campaigning to get assigned to one of bmi’s more attractive long-haul destinations. They do, after all, also fly to places like Barbados and Antigua, which sound rather more agreeable places to spend your leave at the airline’s expense than do Riyadh and Jeddah.

    Comment by notsaussure — December 20, 2006 @ 10:32 pm

  5. Good analysis notsaussure. The woman is for sure publicity seeking.

    Alternatively she is being encouraged by a militant christian group like the WI. Porr thing used a drone to do the dirty work of others…

    Comment by cityunslicker — December 21, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Here is an article about the myth of Bibles not being allowed into Saudi Arabia, it mentions this story as well – http://muslimspeak.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/muslim-urban-legends-the-saudi-bible-ban/

    Comment by abuaisha — July 16, 2008 @ 11:45 am


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