January 24th, 2007


No smoke without flamewar

You may recall a bit of a debate recently about whether Christians should be forced to let gay people stay in their bed-and-breakfasts, in which people invented various analogous situations (as people are wont to do) as aids to debate. Here's one we didn't need to invent, from The Times' News in Brief on Monday:
Smoker put out

A smoker was denied cigarettes at a store because the assistant, a Muslim, said it was against her religion to sell tobacco. The woman smoker, 31, had tried to buy cigarettes at W. H. Smith in Cambridge. The company said that the customer should have realised the assistant was Muslim and would not sell tobacco.
How did the Times know that the woman was a smoker? She might have just been buying cigarettes for a friend. ... No, wait. Should smokers be allowed to refuse to be served by a Muslim? ... No, that's not it either. Hang on, I've got it: How can you tell if the checkout assistant is a Muslim? There isn't a punchline, but there probably would be if you started making assumptions like that based on, ooh, I don't know, the c*l**r of someone's sk*n, or their h**dg**r.

I would say "it's not just me, is it?" but a friend recently said (in an entirely other context) "I too spend a lot of time in culture shock at what's supposed to be my own culture." I think that sums it up, really.