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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Woman to sue BA in necklace row
Nadia Eweida
Ms Eweida said she was standing up for her faith
A Heathrow Airport employee has said she plans to sue British Airways for religious discrimination in a row over the wearing of a cross necklace.

Check-in worker Nadia Eweida, 55, of Twickenham, said she was effectively "forced" to take unpaid leave after refusing to conceal the symbol.

BA denied it had banned the wearing of crosses.

It said its uniform policy stated that such items could be worn if concealed underneath the uniform.

'Double standards'

It said items such as turbans and bangles could be worn as it was impractical for staff to conceal them.

BA has been accused of double standards by some Christian groups.

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

He said: "It would be a great shame if Christians are prevented from demonstrating their own faith. It is a basic human right.

"If she is wearing it as a symbol of her Christian faith she should be allowed to do it. It is rather more than an ornament. It is more than an item of jewellery."

Miss Eweida, who has been with BA for seven years, said she wore the cross because of her deeply-held religious beliefs. She is from an Egyptian background and attends Pentecostal as well as Arabic churches.

Kent Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe urged a boycott of BA.

She said: "My view is that Christians do not have to take this. BA is a commercial organisation. It's not as if it's the government."

'Loopy'

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable, Miss Eweida's MP, said of BA: "They are just being very bureaucratic and very inflexible. For a commercial business this is not good enough."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said he "didn't understand" the decision.

He said on BBC1's Sunday AM programme: "Frankly I think the British Airways order for her not to wear a cross was loopy.

"I don't understand it, I don't think anybody understands it and that is my view."

A BA spokeswoman said Miss Eweida had not been suspended. She said the matter remained under investigation and an appeal was due to be heard next week.

She said BA recognised that uniformed employees may wish to wear jewellery including religious symbols.

"Our uniform policy states that 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."


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