I understand that in order to carry on business it is necessary to observe the laws and cultural mores of the countries where you operate. That sometimes these laws are unfortunate does not preclude obeying them.
However, in the case of Ms Ashton your actions are extraordinary. That she did not wish to be treated as a second class human being is understandable, and that she stood up for herself is laudable. That you insisted, under penalty of dismissal, that she accept the role of chattel is unforgiveable.
Your company demonstrated hypocrisy by stating that she was required to accept this role as a measure of ‘respect for Saudi culture’, simultaneously showing no respect for Ms Ashtons own cultural values; values which place men and women as precisely equal, neither subservient to the other. Given that I expect these to be your values as well, I am disgusted by your actions; ‘respect’ for the culture of others is not the be all and end all in human relationships. I guess there are aspects of Saudi culture which can be respected, even admired, although they don’t spring to mind. However, the position of women in their society is not just unpleasant, it is repugnant, a disgrace among civilisations, and deserves to be held in contempt. I would have hoped that you would hold the same opinion.
The gains made by women in Western societies over the centuries are an example of what is best in our civilisation, and your actions are an example of what is not.
If your female staff choose to abase themselves, that is their choice. For you to require it, as a condition of employment, is incompatible with any views I am prepared to finance. Until, and unless, you rectify this error on your companies part I will not travel with BMI, and I will do my best to dissuade others from doing so as well.
CC Sir Michael Bishop, Chaiman, British Midland Airways Ltd.
H/T Jihad Watch