A leading bank executive has been forced to quit after making an insulting remark about Muslims.
Marc Howells, who was one of Barclaycard's leading figures, left his £200,000-a-year job after making the quip during a staff meeting as he discussed quarterly figures.
Colleagues were stunned when he said: "The results were like Muslims - some were good, some were Shi'ite."
Offended members of staff complained to senior bosses about the "wholly inappropriate" comment.
Mr Howells, 42, who worked for Barclaycard's European arm and has a £2million home in St John's Wood, north-west London, was forced out last month after negotiating an undisclosed pay-off, classed as "redundancy under compromise".
A company source said: "No one could quite believe their ears when he came out with his Shi'ite joke. He had a very responsible job in a multinational company.
"What on earth was he thinking of?
"There were a few embarrassed guffaws but everyone except him knew he was for the high jump the moment he said it.
"Once word got round and a complaint was made he was toast."
Is this what the corporate world has come to? People who, one assumes, do their jobs perfectly well being sacked for making a (rather obvious and hardly original) play on the word 'Shi'ite'. I thought people at the top of big companies were supposed to be hard-nosed bastards, but clearly the ones in this particular case are snivelling fools.
Thirty years ago, my father was employed at the head office of one of the big supermarket companies. He used to claim that, finding that they had a surplus of bacon on their hands, one of his superiors had proposed exporting it to, of all places, Iran! Informed that the people of Iran tended to be Muslim, and might not, therefore, be the most enthusiastic purchasers of that particular product, he responded with the classic words, "Muslims - aren't they the ones who worship monkeys?". Nowadays, he'd be lucky if they didn't ritually disembowel him! Of course, nowadays everyone is all too aware of who Muslims are...