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Target shifts Muslims who won’t ring up pork

Muslim cashiers at some local Target stores who object to ringing up products that contain pork are being shifted to other positions where they don’t need to, the discount retailer said Saturday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Muslim cashiers at some local Target stores who object to ringing up products that contain pork are being shifted to other positions where they don’t need to, the discount retailer said Saturday.

The Star Tribune reported this past week that some Muslim cashiers at local Targets had declined to scan pork products such as bacon because doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. They would ask other cashiers to ring up such purchases, or sometimes customers would scan those items themselves, the newspaper reported.

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. has now offered its local Muslim cashiers who object to handling pork the option of wearing gloves while cashiering, shifting to other positions or transferring to other nearby stores.

“We are confident that this is a reasonable solution for our guests and team members,” Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press on Saturday.

Greear said it was a localized problem and that it would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“It is not an issue in most of our stores in the Twin Cities,” she said in separate comments via e-mail. “There is also no indication that this is an issue in the Minnesota market overall or nationwide.”

Islam teaches that pigs are unclean and eating pork is a sin, and some Muslims feel selling or handling pork is also forbidden because it would make them complicit in the sins of others.

Collision of work and faith
As the local Muslim population grows, fueled by immigration from East African countries such as Somalia, efforts by Muslims to live by the rules of their faith often come into conflict with the realities of the American workplace.

Disputes over how employers should accommodate prayer times surface from time to time, and there’s an ongoing dispute involving cab drivers who serve Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport—many of whom are Muslim—who refuse to take passengers who are carrying alcohol.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission is expected to vote in April on a proposal that would hand out 30-day license suspensions to cabbies who refuse service for any reason, with a second refusal leading to a two-year revocation.

Suhara Robla, who works at the SuperTarget in St. Louis Park, told the Star Tribune that more than a dozen Muslim cashiers were asked Thursday to do other jobs.

“They told all of us who don’t touch pork to go to the sales floor,” she told the newspaper. “They really didn’t say why. They just said it was a new policy.”

Worker walks over issue
Muse Dahir told the AP this past week he quit his job at the Sam’s Club in Bloomington after he was transferred from another position to cashiering and was ordered to ring up pork purchases.

Several times on his first day as a cashier, Dahir said, said customers brought pork products to his register. He asked them to take their goods to another register, and a customer complained to management.

“They told me, you have to check this,” Dahir said. “I told them, I can’t do this. You want me to do something that’s against my religion.”

Dahir said a manager told him that was part of the job, so “I just put down my uniform and I left.”

He said it doesn’t matter if the pork product is packaged. “Even if you just sell it to someone, you break a promise to Allah,” he said.

Jama Omar, a clerk at Otanga Grocery in Minneapolis, told the AP his store caters mostly to East African immigrants and doesn’t carry pork products, so it’s not an issue for him personally. But Omar also said Muslims shouldn’t expect special treatment.

“If it causes a big problem for your employer, they have to make the decision that’s best for them,” Omar said. “It’s not something to go on strike or file a civil suit. Go somewhere else that will accept your beliefs. There’s millions of jobs.”