Branson firm 'sacked Muslim for having beard'

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The Independent Online

He has one of the most famous beards in the country and, as a flamboyant entrepreneur who's not frightened of a bit of publicity, has no qualms about showing it off.

He has one of the most famous beards in the country and, as a flamboyant entrepreneur who's not frightened of a bit of publicity, has no qualms about showing it off.

As boss of a plane and train empire who also has a penchant for daring boat and ballooning adventures, Virgin's Sir Richard Branson probably has some of the most travelled whiskers around.

But now one of his workers is claiming he was told to shave off his beard and has accused his bosses of religious discrimination.

Mohsin Mohmed, 22, from Ilford, east London, is taking Virgin Trains to an employment tribunal after losing his job as a customer services assistant at Euston station in London.

Virgin denies the claim of discrimination and claims that Mr Mohmed was dismissed after his probationary period for poor performance.

Mr Mohmed, who is Muslim, is said to have told rail bosses his faith required him to have a beard at least one fist's length, about four inches.

According to his claim, he had been told to crop the beard in September last year by his manager David Adams, a month after starting his £17,000-a-year job. Mr Mohmed alleges that Mr Adams regularly harassed him and that he had explained how he trimmed his beard on a number of occasions to the minimum required by his religion.

He said: "Nobody tells Richard Branson to shave his beard off. Why should I have to get rid of mine?"

A Virgin spokesman said that the company would not comment as the case was continuing.

A full hearing is expected to take place at Woburn Place employment tribunal in October.

Sir Richard's beard is believed to have played a role in his business success. The former British Airways chairman, Lord King, is reputed to have said he would have taken the threat from Virgin Atlantic more seriously if the entrepreneur had worn a suit and shaved off his beard. The Virgin boss did, however, shave off his beard and moustache on one occasion - to publicise Virgin Brides, when he also wore a wedding dress.