Muslim train driver loses religious discrimination claim

Muslim train driver loses religious discrimination claim

01/14/2021

Muslim train driver loses religious discrimination claim after suing security firm working for Heathrow Express that used fake bomb daubed with words ‘Allahu Akbar’ as part of training exercise

  • Fake suspicious package had the Arabic words for ‘Allah is Greater’ written on it
  • Anis Ali, 36, launched compensation claim after he discovered what it said 
  • He said the words ‘violated his dignity’ and created a ‘hostile environment’
  • However, an employment tribunal ruled he had not been discriminated against

A Muslim train driver has lost his religious discrimination claim after suing a security firm for using a fake bomb with the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ on it as part of a training exercise.

Anis Ali, 36, launched a claim for compensation after he discovered that the fake suspicious package planted to test security procedures had the Arabic words for ‘Allah is Greater’ on it, an employment tribunal heard.

Mr Ali – who worked for Heathrow Express at the time – said that seeing the words of Islam connected to a simulated terror device ‘violated his dignity’ and created a ‘hostile environment’ for him.

However, the tribunal ruled he had not been discriminated against and it was unreasonable for him to take offence because ‘this phrase has been used in connection with terrorist attacks’.

Muslim train driver Anis Ali sued a security firm for religious discrimination after it used a fake bomb with the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ on it as part of a training exercise. Mr Ali’s name was put up in lights above London’s Oxford Street (pictured) in acknowledgement of his work as an NHS volunteer during the Covid-19 pandemic

It ruled that in two other incidents he had been a victim of religious discrimination when colleagues complained about him wearing ‘a Sikh kara bracelet’.

Since leaving Heathrow Express, which operates services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport, Mr Ali has won plaudits for his NHS volunteer work during the coronavirus pandemic.

In acknowledgement of the hundreds of hours he volunteered in 2020, Mr Ali’s name was even put up in lights above London’s Oxford Street.

The tribunal heard that in August 2017 staff for Redline Assured Security Limited – which has a contract with Heathrow Airport for security-related services – concealed a carrier bag at one of Heathrow Express’s stations as part of a test.

This was open at the top, and contained a cardboard box and some electric cabling. 

At the top of the bag, so as to be visible on close inspection, was a piece of paper with the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ written in Arabic.

The proper translation of this is ‘Allah is Greater’ and this was described by the tribunal as ‘an important and significant phrase for Muslims, which may be used many times a day by Muslims in the context of religious devotion’.

The tribunal heard that Mr Ali was not on duty at the time of the exercise but when he discovered the nature of the note ‘he considered this to violate his dignity and created a hostile etc environment for him’.

Mark Rutherford, operations director of Redline, told the tribunal: ‘The only purpose of the note is to ensure that the package looked obviously suspicious […] to reflect just one of the current threats that were present in the UK at the time.’

He added that Redline would also use English phrases in their fake suspicious packages, such as ‘Animal Testing must STOP now’ or ‘No Third Runway’.

Mr Ali, from Morden, south London, claimed that Redline had discriminated against him because of his religion by using the words Allahu Akbar in this context.

However, his claim was dismissed by employment judge Laurence Antsis, who ruled this was not directed at Mr Ali, saying: ‘Regrettably, this phrase has been used in connection with terrorist attacks.’

He added that it was ‘legitimate’ for Redline to reinforce the suspicious nature of its packages by ‘referring to known threats and matters connected with previous terrorist incidents’ and it was ‘not reasonable’ for Mr Ali to take offence.

Mr Ali, who now works for Great Western Railway, made two other claims of unlawful harassment related to his religion by colleagues at Heathrow Express and was successful in these.

In November 2016, a duty station manager called Davinder Hare complained to Heathrow Express about Mr Ali – known as Anis – wearing a Sikh kara bracelet despite being a Muslim.

He claimed that Muslim men would wear a kara to attract and then rape Sikh girls. 

He emailed bosses and attached an article, which was extremely critical of the religion of Islam.

In March 2017, another Sikh colleague – a train driver called Narinder Rai – made similar remarks about why Mr Ali would wear a kara.

Mr Ali – who worked for Heathrow Express at the time (file image)- said that seeing the words of Islam connected to a simulated terror device ‘violated his dignity’ and created a ‘hostile environment’ for him

The tribunal, held at Reading, Berks, ruled that Heathrow Express and Mr Hare would have to pay Mr Ali a total of £2,000 for ‘injury to feelings’ on grounds of religious discrimination for the first incident.

For the second incident, the tribunal ordered Heathrow Express and Mr Rai to pay combined £2,000 on the same grounds.

In November last year, Mr Ali was celebrated for his ‘selfless’ volunteer work during the coronavirus pandemic, completing 733 tasks for the NHS since March and donating more hours than any other volunteer in London.

As an result, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), which runs the programme with NHS England, nominated him to have his name appear in Oxford Street’s Christmas lighting display.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of RVS, said: ‘The dedication and selflessness of volunteers like Anis has been incredible.

‘Although there is one name up there today, we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every NHS volunteer responder who has contributed to keeping this country safe.’

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