back to article Head banker leaves job over Muslim gaffe

A senior banking industry figure has left his job after making a joke about Muslims which reportedly stunned colleagues and was the subject of complaints. Marc Howells of Barclaycard Europe has left his post. Howells was discussing quarterly figures with staff when he is reported as saying: "The results were like Muslims – …


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  1. Sir Runcible Spoon

    Once it got round

    If the people in the room were offended and complained, how come everyone else got to know about it? Surely whoever mentioned it to someone else should be fired too - and then the people who heard it and passed it on should be fired until there's no-one left but the fucking idiots.

    A reprimand was probably in order plus an apology, but to lose your job over something like this? Nonce-sense.

  2. Lickass McClippers

    Sounds like...

    ...a right David Brent...

  3. Steve Button Silver badge

    What discrimination?

    This is PC gone mad.

    It was not discrimination, it was just a joke. A crap joke. Still, in that position he should have known better.


  4. Benedict

    Namby Pamby

    Oh no! Somebody made a play on words that had something to do with Muslims. Jesus christ, people really should get some balls.

  5. JakeyC

    What's the betting

    An inappropriate joke, to be sure. But I'd bet good money that the complaints weren't made by Muslims, more likely some people who decided to take offence on their behalf because they feel that is the right thing to do.

    It's an obvious joke, but I found it humourous, and he'll not be the first to make it either.

    I think his colleagues are like Christians: some are good, some are funda-MENTAL-ists.

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  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Brain transplant anyone?

    What a joke, thank god they did away with him! How can people with such a low intellect reach such high ranks? I remain puzzled!

    Then again, when I read or hear what British MP's say in the papers or on TV I really feel so über-intelligent ...

    Did I choose my career correctly?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Merchant banker

    A colleague told me about this story a couple of days ago (I'm in IT in a bank) and I laughed out loud at how inappropriate this poor joke was. It is as good as impossible to stop this kind of comment over a post-work beer, but to say it in a board (bored?) meeting? Absolutely priceless.

    I would say that while I don't find the joke funny and would not associate with the kind of moron who would make such comments, people are still (just about) entitled to express their opinion. However, going out of your way to offend (as this idiot has) is just stupid. Why stop at a board meeting? Go for broke and announce it at the shareholders' AGM!

  9. Michael Golden
    Thumb Down

    Get a grip

    So just who did he discriminate against by cracking a joke?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well it was an embarrassing Shi'ite joke, but it seems any excuse will do to lose your job these days. Proportionate reaction would have been a quiet word that it overstepped the mark, and an apology might be in order.

    By the way, why has Shi'ite almost disappeared in the media these days, seemingly replaced by Shia ? Is it the same ? Is it just today's PC environment ?

  11. Justin
    Thumb Down

    Scramble the care police

    "We have a robust approach to equality and diversity and do not tolerate discrimination."

    And this harmless little pun encroached on which of these? Personally I think it's quite witty - but of course, fictional superstitions deserve the highest levels of unquestionable respect.


  12. Dave

    well i...

    i thought it was funny... haha. Although it is only 11:15 and i have just woken up.. a little worse for wear. (first coffe of the day.. uugh)

    Props for trying to break the bored-room gloom. I bet they all laughed, or grinned at least.

  13. Simon Lewis


    So they didn't sack him - he got 'redundancy under compromise'. If it had been a lowly worker cracking the no-brain jokes do you think the outcome would have been the same? How much did they give him I wonder?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't believe

    Everyone seems to have missed the point. This is all to do with marginalising the Shi'ites from other Muslims. They have a hard enough time as it as after all we all know that:

    "Life can be so sweet, on the Sunni side of the street"

  15. Markie Dussard

    Promotions all round, then?

    Most so-called "diversity" or "equality" programmes are essentially ammunition for the bullies. My company has moronically established the principle that it is merely enough for someone to state that they are 'offended' for an offence to be deemed to have been committed.

    Many years ago, I was engaged in a private conversation with colleagues, discussing an ex-colleague whose stated opinions on matrimony was "Women only marry men to get washing machines!", breathtaking and hilarious evidence of a Clarksonesque misogyny. Unfortunately, an eavesdropper, who had nothing to do with conversation decided that she had only heard that quote and scurried off to her manager to report me for this offence to her dignity. Fortunately the manager involved was not an idiot and quickly established that she was trying to get a bit of attention for herself. Given that the conversation was obviously and maliciously misquoted out of context, the comments were not directed at her and she was in fact nothing to do with the conversation, she was actually disciplined. But the lesson I learned was that once companies hand those weapons out, it's best to keep your eye out for the careerists who think they can enhance their promotion prospects at your expense.

  16. David


    Well i expect to see that joke in next years christmas cracker set, break the monotiny of why does rudolf have a red nose ......

  17. Anonymous Coward

    typical just typical

    so the joke was in bad taste, lots of jokes are in bad taste

    the fact that they are in bad taste is what makes some of them jokes

    can I have a quick list of religions we are allowed to make fun of without being fired or sued???

  18. Joe Stalin


    I know a few Muslins, but I don't see many at any given time. Some are Shi'ite others are Sunni and I know the Sunni lot (well those that under stand English and its subtleties) would give you a wink if you told them that "joke".

    p.s. Be careful which street in Bagdad you repeat it, you might lose more that your job.

  19. Joe

    shi'ite -> shia

    Reminds me of a somewhat more witty remark I heard from a listener's contribution to Terry Wogan's show.

    It's saddening to hear that Sunni and Shia are in such heavy conflict these days. Perhaps we could arrange for them to get together to re-record "I've got you, babe"?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'll use that one the next boozey one. Much as i use Irish jokes, black jokes, tory jokes, hippy jokes, fat people jokes, asian people jokes, misc pretend stories about pretend people, long political satires and a whole range of other tastless jokes. "What's the difference between a woman and a washing machine?" I'll let you ponder the end to that one. Crap jokes are crap, and raise a small chuckle just becouse their crap, rude, course, unfair etc.

    Although the other day I was on the bus and heared a pair of muslims (they were talking about their mosque at one point) talking about how shi'ites should be killed. Go figure.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Can't believe

    I find that amusing because it's a much better play on words than the original (which was poor & unintelligent).

  22. Chris Griffin

    is it just me...

    Is it just me or are the "company sources" playing on the same joke as well...

    "But there was no chance of that once his Shi'ite joke started doing the rounds."

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Good riddance!

  24. Niall

    Who complained?

    Probably the person now sitting in his chair. What a bunch of bankers.

    Pun Coat, I had a scarf with that but no wit.

  25. Silo Spen


    "What a joke, thank god they did away with him! How can people with such a low intellect reach such high ranks? I remain puzzled!"

    Pfft. I wouldn't call it low intellect. Hell, it's just a play on words, not really a racist joke. I can see why people are getting pissed off, but honestly, what a waste of time.

    Lighten up world.

  26. Tom


    The joke got a chuckle from me...

  27. Gordon

    Oh, FFS

    Yes, it was a marginally stupid choice of subject for his play-in-words. It does rather imply that Sh'ite Muslims are bad - but I don't think that was necessarilly his intention because he just used the word that worked in his joke and didnt' think enough about what his choice of words implied.

    I'm not sure that sacking him was commensurate with his sins. If they're so outraged by this, why not sack him for gross misconduct, rather then pussyfoot around with a "redundancy"? It's less likely to be an act of Malice and more likely just to be a foot-in-mouth incident.

    To be honest. If he'd made a similarly "offensive" joke about Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sihks or even Wiccans, scientologists or Humanists, people would have chuckled and ignored it. Some people go through life looking for reasons to be "offended", i'm afraid.

  28. John

    ratner and brent all in one!

    One, it was a stupid, Brent-ish thing to say. Two, for religious reasons Muslims don't like most of the ways of lending money that many Caucasoids see as normal, so even the hint of putting a huge (and growing) demographic off your product is the stuff of Gerald Ratner.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    just my tuppence

    OK, there are those here who are going on at why can't we joke about religions and so on. Problem is that there are laws that protect some religions and not others. If you say something that Jewish people find offensive, then they can quote racial discrimination law at you, however, if you say something that is offensive to a Muslim or Hindu, then there is no law that is broken. There was an attempt to bring in Religious Discrimination laws, but that was rejected as it was fought over the media, hence why we have people like the BNP leader who is able to say whatever he wants against Muslims. While holocaust deniers like David Irving will end up in court for saying anything that is remotely slightly offensive to Jews.

    By the way, the term is Shia. not Shi'ite as the Shia find that offensive. Shi'ite is an English made term that is often abused within the English language.

    I say that one should not offend any religion, Christianity, Buddhism or Islam. By the way, what would have happened if he said Scientology jokes?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getting as bad as the Americans

    I'm afraid us Brits are taking after our cousins across the Atlantic and becoming as humourless and puritanical. What's even worse, our ultra-humble self-condescending attitude is coupled with a hyper-sensitive fear of offending anyone but the indigenous white middle-class. But does that not demonstrate a non-PC sense of superiority in itself?

    What's with the PC do-gooder attitude these days? Answer: They used to be the loony-left tree-huggers that gravitated into the old Labour party because neither the Tories nor the relatively right-winged Lib-Dems at the time wanted them. Tony Blair suppressed them and everyone thought they got flushed down the plug-hole. Oh no, they are still very much alive but in the very different form of PC people.

    Scary. I think it's time to emigrate.

  31. Scott Wichall

    I laughed as well

    So he told a crap joke. So what, it made me laugh and I am sure many other readers had a chuckle as well.

    I do not think he deserved to loose his job, but then again, that's the PC world we live in now.

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  33. Dan
    Paris Hilton

    One thing about muslim fundamentalists is

    that they really show us up for the bunch of pussies that we are when faced with even the remotest danger. There just seems to be a state of constant panic and overreacting to anything that might offend muslim sensibilities.


    "It's saddening to hear that Sunni and Shia are in such heavy conflict these days. Perhaps we could arrange for them to get together to re-record "I've got you, babe"?


    That's so much better than the original, not quite worth getting sacked for though.

    The sacking was way OTT, even an apology was unnecessary as anyone who was offended for any other reason than it being such a bad joke, really needs to get a grip.

  34. conan

    It may be funny

    Whether the joke's funny or not is irrelevant - I know lots of jokes which I think are funny, and would defend my right to say them and that I'm only extracting the michael and not expressing prejudice - but the workplace is not an appropriate place to deliver it. The point being that when you're at work you're entitled to work in an atmosphere free from insults and slurs and other demeaning behaviour. This kind of joke can easily contribute to a sense of inequality in the workplace, and a senior figure in any company should know better than to make the obvious implication that Shi'ites are not good. He's entitled to feel that way, or just to make a joke of it, but not at work. If a senior member of my organisation made a joke targeting me (I'm not a Shi'ite, so they'd have to think up another one) I'd inform them that they'd overstepped the mark and lodge a formal complaint.

  35. Chris Hamilton

    Titter titter....

    Jesus H. Corbett! Some people really do need to stop all this PC nonsense. IMHO it is what is causing all the current world problems and is leading to hatred and resentment.

    It really was a Shi'ite joke anyway. But nevertheless made me titter.

    Where's my coat?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    I'm Irish, I hear Irish jokes regularly from my English friends and colleagues.

    Some are funny and some are bad, should I have them fired only for the bad jokes.

    As I see it, it would be offensive if he said all Muslims where Shi'ite.

    Barclaycard should cop themselves on. If that's the way they react to humor in the workplace, then that's one company I'll never work for.

  37. Hollerith

    it's offensive to non-Muslims

    You don't have to be the target to dislike a joke. When I go to any meeting, I don't expect or want to hear 'jokes' that denigrate or make fun of anyone -- if the joke had used an anti-Jewish pun, would we have been amused? Or if it was something tasteless against Christians? Or a pun playing on disability? This sort of humour is not welcome. I don't want to be in an atmosphere where this kind of humour is seen as acceptable. I don't want to be shifting uncomfortably in my seat, or having to minute an objection, because some crass guy who believe jokes are a good substitute for conversation has decided to share a 'witticism' with me, when I am at work. In fact, not in the pub, either. Grow up. Don't give me 'it was just a joke' as a defence. If you don't have these feelings and thoughts in your head, you never make a joke like that.

    I remember looking at a company photo with someone, and she started to point out everyone she knew or thought was Jewish. That was how she saw the world: Jews and the rest of us. And not in a good way. Tellers of jokes like that have the same kind of stuff in their heads. It's not the joke that offends per se, but that he thought he could tell it and that his listeners shared his world view.

  38. David Cornes

    @Joe Stalin

    "I know a few Muslins"

    Men of the cloth I'd presume?? :-D

  39. Ron Eve
    Paris Hilton

    @Can't believe

    I thought the original was amusing in a schoolboy way - certainly not a sacking offence, but the rejoinder by AC with "Sunni side of the street" had me LMBO...

    And the Paris angle? Well, the word play title of the film "One Night in Paris"...

    Cashmere coat

    Hackney carriage...

  40. Bill Smith

    Banned words

    are there any other banned words in the English language, did someone pass a censorship law while I wasnt looking, could the 'right-on' brigade please grow up.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ just my tuppence

    There is an amazing amount of woolly thinking on this subject, based on a fundamental confusion which also underlay the debate about the government's ill-fated "religious hatred" legislation.

    It's actually quite simple: there is a difference between race and religion.

    I make a very clear distinction between those qualities of people which are a matter of birth/genetics (race, gender, sexuality) and those which are a matter of choice, such as religious belief or political persuasion. It's not OK to attack people for what they are: what they believe is, however, fair game.

    Once you get your head round this, you've answered the problem of where lines are drawn. Some muslims accuse westerners of double standards with respect to freedom of speech, using as an example western attitudes about anti-semitism as opposed to "Islamophobia". This is based on the confusion just mentioned, and in this context Islam is essentially a victim of its own success. Jews and Sikhs (in the UK at least) are protected by anti-racist legislation. Any percieved protection of Judaism and Sikhism is a side-effect of those religions pretty much coinciding with defined racial groupings. Islam, by contrast, doesn't map neatly onto one racial group: there are muslims in most such groupings. Judaism, Sikhism and Islam are in fact treated equally: all are beliefs, and therefore subject to criticism, mockery etc. The only religion in the UK with any special protection is Christianity, and for the most part that protection is ignored as archaic, only being dredged up by the likes of Mary Whitehouse (eg her homophobic persecution of that poem). In my opinion, those protections should be repealed: the answer isn't to apply blasphemy laws to all religions, otherwise you're protecting all sorts of half-baked cults etc.

    Following the above through logically, and certain distinctions become clear, eg: criticising Israelis for using Judaism to justify the terrorist takeover of Palestine is fine. Making racist criticism of Jews as a people and denying history (eg the holocaust) is not.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    I am a muslim ...

    ... bearded to the gills

    and I thought it was hilarious...

    Admittedly I'm not a Shi'ite - hence I my position is biased...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am going to name my next Teddy Bear Barclaycard

    and then because BarclayCard do not discriminate on any level, he can apply for his BarclayCard, and get one.

    Then if he does not pay up, he can either declare bankruptcy or stick to pawed fingers up and off to Teddy Bear jail with him :)

    I thought the joke was quite amusing, see it was a play on the phrase 'Not all Muslims are terrorists and they are quite a diverse bunch, some of the groups even have names that sound very similar to naughty words that we use in the English language.', and he used that idea to show the diversity of whatever he was talking about. That is not to say that other jokes are not amusing, and to be fair all jokes are probably equally amusing, wouldn't wish to be a joke discriminist.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    "My company has moronically established the principle that it is merely enough for someone to state that they are 'offended' for an offence to be deemed to have been committed."

    Ah the lovely 51st state. Litigation culture, "offence" and "defense" becoming synonyms, mangled civilians becoming "collateral damage", "perceived threats" justifying ridiculous over-violence, a juvenile dichotomic Worldview. Enjoy!

  45. Neil Docherty

    If he had made a scientology joke... you think anyone would have gave a crap?!?

  46. Anonymous Coward

    @If he had made a scientology joke...

    Is scientology a religion or a scam?

  47. Gary F

    @ Hollerith

    I am shocked that despite your obvious delicate sensibilities and Politically Correct leanings, you chose to use the word "denigrate" in your post.

    A few years ago, I recall the PC sheep flocking against a public figure who dared to use this word.

    Now that you have caused offense by using that racist term, perhaps, to save the rest of us from your ignorance, you should hand yourself in to the PC police and never return to the internet.

    In a general comment regarding the original story, I can't believe that some of you are twisting this into a slur against Shi'ites / muslims.

    The joke was not made to infer that Shi'ites are "bad".

    The joke was a play on words to illustrate a diversity in 2 elements.

    Some results were good, some were bad.

    Some Muslims are Shi'ites, some are not.

    I agree it was a poor pun on the word Shi'ite, but if anyone takes offense from this comment, they are obviously actively seeking to be offended.

  48. Duncan Hothersall

    Hurrah for AC @ 14:29

    Exactly right my friend.

  49. Gordon


    I once asked a man his "Christian name" - this is simply English for "first name". He went off on one about being a Moslem, so he shouldn't be asked for his "Christian name". So I asked him for his "first name" instead. I had to resist the temptation to ask him for his "Moslem" name, though.

    Personally I have dyslexia. I'm also an Agnostic. But I don't find anything offensive in the joke "does a Dyslexic Agnostic lay in bed at night wondering if there is, or is not, a Dog". Neither am I offended at the one about the Dyslexic motorcycle gang call the "Hells Angles" who declared themselves "Minions of Santa". Why am I not offended??

    Because I have a sense of humour, I think they're clever plays on words and not said with any malice. And i'm not LOOKING for reasons to be offended, if I don't like something I ignore it.

    Sorry for anyone offended by the above humour. Email me at "", if you want to discuss.

  50. Dave J

    Typical comments

    Just because the word muslim appears, you get the usual why is that offensive.

    Would it still be okay if he said

    "We send out bills longer than a Jew's nose"

    "Our black barclaycard can't be given to a nigger, no-one could see it when he hands it over"

    "No need to give a credit card to a cripple, how could he hand it over to anyone"

    Are these acceptable? FGS this was the head of barclaycard saying that in a company meeting, not a pub drinking sun reader during a private party. Lose his job absolutely for complete stupidity

  51. Marc-Oliver Kalis

    WOE? Politcal correctness gone wild?

    People are wondering where the islamophobia and the hatred against foreigners comes from...

    Well, it's quite obvious.

    when people get fired because of a joke like this, it's natural that the anger get's released on one way or another!

    I for one, cannot understand how someone can take offense because of something like this...

    I am a believing Christian and cannot count the number of jokes I have heard about Jesus and Christianity!

    The fact, that the Quran states, that non-believers (non-Muslims) should be killed, should I take offense in that too and have an agro against all Muslims?

    What about the jokes against the Irish, the Welsh, the Germans, etc.

    What about jokes about cats and dogs, and birds. they might feel offended too...

    I know, let's stop telling jokes all together and be a bunch of humorless morons who only complain about the nasty things that everybody else is doing to us.

    Sad thing about this is (from my point of view!!!):

    As a Christian I believe, that anyone who does not believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, will end up in Hell after they die (for those who are curious, have a look at

    <a href="">Revelation 20</a> ). So it's it makes it even worse, that they want to be miserable in their current life.

    BTW: has anyone found the Paris Hilton angle?

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