Socialist Worker

BNP member stays, Muslim gets the sack

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1924

YOU CAN stand as a candidate for the fascist BNP and still be welcome at Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains. But if you’re Muslim you’d better watch your step.

Mohsin Mohmed, a 22 year old devout Muslim from Ilford, east London, says he was sacked from his job at Virgin Trains after being repeatedly told to spurn his faith and cut his beard short.

Mohsin spoke out at an employment tribunal last week. His treatment contrasts starkly to that of another Virgin Trains employee, who appeared at a tribunal the week before.

Jay Lee is a longtime BNP activist who has stood as a candidate for the fascist party on several occasions. He is still employed as a train driver by Branson’s company.

Lee was in court to screw money out of Aslef, the train drivers’ union. Aslef had the courage to expel Lee for belonging to a party dedicated to spreading race hatred.

While Virgin seems happy to keep a BNP candidate on the payroll, Mohsin Mohmed is fighting for justice after he was sacked in February.

“I made it clear to them that my religious beliefs made me keep my beard at one fist length, or four inches,” Mohsin told the tribunal.

But his manager, David Adams, repeatedly pestered him to trim his beard. Even when he did so, his bosses still weren’t satisfied.

“If you had to choose between your job and your beard, what would you do?” he was asked.

Mohsin told the tribunal that he explained to his manager that his beard was meant to be a fist long.

A few weeks later, Adams stopped him at work in front of another worker. “Do your trick—show how you check your beard,” he said.

“I felt so humiliated,” said Mohsin. “I was being singled out because of my religious beliefs and asked to do this ‘trick’.”

Adams said Mohsin was sacked at the end of his probationary period for not being “enthusiastic”.

But at no time was Mohsin told that his performance was poor enough to cost him his job.

And Mohsin’s workmates thought highly of him.

Their support, together with backing from his RMT union rep, gave him the confidence to take his case to a tribunal.

There is no minimum award for cases of racial discrimination taken to a tribunal.

But BNP member Jay Lee is looking forward to a legally enforced minimum of £5,000 in Aslef members’ subs.

His tribunal ruled that Aslef had broken anti-union laws by expelling him.

These laws were passed by the Tories in 1992 and left in place by New Labour.

“It is a total scandal,” says Finn Brennan, an Aslef rep in London who moved a resolution to his union’s conference calling for the expulsion of members of fascist organisations.

“We will continue to fight this case. These anti-union laws should not be on the statute books. The case of Mohsin Mohmed shows exactly why unions need to seriously fight racism. You can’t do that, or win the confidence of black and Asian workers, if you have members of any fascist organisations in your ranks.”

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Sat 23 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1924
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