Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Congoid, Arab

Never knew there were so many classifications of race before. Or at least there are more than I realized because a new race has been added. If attorney Robert Habib is to be believed, then Arab is a separate racial group, neither black nor white nor yellow nor red. And here I was thinking that Arabs fell into the Caucasoid group.

The reason that Arabs are not Caucasian is because Walid Elkhatib, a Jerusalem-born Muslim, refuses to serve pork products at his Chicago area Dunkin Donuts. Now, if he were only an employee of Dunkin Donuts, Mr. Elkhatib could still be a Caucasian, but he would be the victim of religious discrimination. As the franchise owner, he must cry racial bias to get his case heard in court.

The western suburb of Berkeley is not the busiest part of Chicago's metropolitan area, and the Dunkin Donuts shop was allowed to serve only donuts and not the pork-product breakfast sandwiches that were introduced five years after the shop opened. Having prospered at the Berkeley location and a second one in Westchester, also pork free, Mr. Elkhatib decided to move his Westchester shop to a busier corner and get a bigger piece of the donut. And of course, he would not serve pork, which had been fine with the lords of the donut before.

Busier corner, more opportunity for Dunkin Donuts to make more money, and the prior deal to ban pork became a problem. All well and good to omit a menu item where there's not quite so much business, or most of the clients are Islamic, but put a shop on a busy corner where there are people who will buy breakfast sandwiches and take their business elsewhere if they can't get them, and it's a new deal.

Mr. Elkhatib is suing Dunkin Donuts, and his attorney is using a law that was written during the Reconstruction to protect the former slaves from discrimination, dealing with the right of all persons to make and enforce contracts like the white folks do.

When he was a white man, a Caucasian, Mr. Elkhatib had an unwritten agreement with Dunkin Donuts to ban pork products from his shops. Now, as an Arab, he can't make the same contract, hence, he is being discriminated against. Such legal reasoning worked for black franchisees who sued when the were blocked from expanding into predominantly white areas, although they had no problem serving the pork products. Attorney Robert Habib believes that he can draw parallels between the two cases, but is he saying that Mr. Elkhatib is going to expand into a primarily Christian area and that's why there's discrimination?

The Federal appeals court is going to hear the case, citing evidence that Dunkin Donuts allowed other franchises to forgo pork due to space limitations at the shop, or because of lease restrictions at the location, or because of customer demand for kosher products. Nothing in there about a franchise owner refusal to serve part of the Dunkin Donuts menu because his religion forbade him from touching pork, but a good attorney can talk his way around anything.

Mr. Elkhatib is fighting over principle at this point, because Dunkin Donuts did not renew his contracts and he will lose the franchise rights. It is debatable whether or not he will understand, in the end, why he could not impose his religious beliefs on his customers, or why he could not operate a franchise under his own rules. The separation of church and state is a difficult concept to grasp for those who were inculcated in a religion that makes itself the center of daily life. And the cold, heartless rules of the marketplace dictate that one should always read the contract before signing.

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