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 £2?million 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."
Another company insider added: "Part of the deal was that the circumstances of his departure must never be disclosed. But there was no chance of that once his Shi'ite joke started doing the rounds."
Shi'ites and Sunnis are the followers of the two main branches of the Muslim religion.
A Barclaycard spokesman refused to comment about the departure, but said: "We do not tolerate discrimination."
"We won't comment on any individual cases like this.
"Everybody who works here gets guidance of what is right and what is wrong.
"We have a robust approach to equality and diversity and do not tolerate discrimination.
"But we have nothing to add on this particular case."
Mr Howells refused to comment at his home yesterday.
Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative MP, said she felt his treatment was harsh.
"I believe that a rebuke would have been sufficient in this case," she added.
Those who have made racist remarks have escaped with a reprimand in the past.
Most recently the BBC Radio 2 DJ Sarah Kennedy was censured but escaped the sack for a comment on air about how she could not see black men in the dark.
This was despite it being the second time she had been in trouble for similarly offensive statements.
The 57-year-old presenter had been admonished previously for making another racially insensitive gaffe in which she said black men dominate athletics because they are accustomed to being pursued by lions.
Source: Telegraph (English), h/t Islamophobia Watch (English)