Muslim PC To Sue Police
A Muslim policeman is suing Scotland Yard for race and religious discrimination after he was removed from an armed protection unit on the advice of MI5, it has emerged.
PC Amjad Farooq, 39, says he was axed from the Met’s elite Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) when vetting revealed his two young children attended a mosque associated with a radical Muslim cleric. The imam is alleged to have links to a suspected terrorist group in Pakistan.
PC Farooq, a father-of-five, was promoted to the role as part of a Met Police diversity drive to boost ethnic minorities in its top units. But he claims that, after background checks were made, he was told by a senior officer that he was a threat to national security.
The officer was also told his presence might upset the American secret service which worked with the Met’s close-protection unit, which guards Downing Street and the US embassy.
Last night Scotland Yard refused to say why PC Farooq had been barred from working in the DPG. But according to insiders, the decision followed intelligence supplied by MI5.
Sources said Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, regarded by his critics as Britain’s most politically correct police chief, intends to fight the case.
Last month it emerged that another Muslim officer in the DPG, PC Alexander Basha, had been excused from guarding the Israeli embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens, central London, because of concern about his family links with Lebanon.
Details of the latest race row emerged after PC Farooq formally launched legal proceedings against the Met. He strongly denies any links to extremists, and is understood to be seeking substantial damages.
PC Farooq was a firearms specialist working for Wiltshire Constabulary when he was transferred to the DPG, whose main role is to provide protection at government, diplomatic and Metropolitan Police sites.
He was appointed three years ago after the Met launched a programme to ‘recruit more black and minority ethnic officers and staff into specialist units’.
The initiative, devised in the wake of the damning Stephen Lawrence report, was introduced to ensure such units ‘reflected the diverse communities they serve’.
The DPG currently has 43 ethnic minority officers – around six per cent of officers in the unit.
All officers in the squad have to undergo strict security vetting including a counter-terrorism check (CTC). When PC Farooq was recruited, he was told he would not be allowed to carry a gun until he had received clearance.
It is claimed that on December 16 2003, he was approached by a detective chief superintendent from Special Branch who informed him that he had failed his CTC. By then, PC Farooq had been working for the DPG for six weeks.
The Met referred to the fact that two of PC Farooq’s sons, aged nine and 11, had attended their local mosque for religious studies when the building was associated with an imam whom the police suspected had links to an extremist Islamic group.
But the Muslim community in Swindon, Wiltshire – where PC Farooq and his family lived until three months ago – have joined him in dismissing the terror allegations.
They said that until a few years ago he worshipped at the Swindon Mosque where an imam called Abdul Rashid, had links to a movement called Sipah Sahaba, meaning ‘Army of the Companions’.
The group is banned in Pakistan, where the imam met members while studying at a madrassa there in the 1980s.
A Swindon Mosque worshipper said: ‘It is ridiculous to say Amjad is in any way linked to possible terrorist groups. He is a hard working police officer who just loves his job.
“The security services must have decided he was dodgy because of his vague connection to the imam. But by the time there was the fuss over Amjad’s firearms duties, the imam had stepped down from the mosque anyway.
“His approach had been overruled by the majority here. So Amjad had nothing to do with the imam, who anyway was only loosely linked to this group in Pakistan.”
PC Farooq’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies said: “We live in a society where it is possible to point a finger at a Muslim abroad and say that they have WMD and are a threat to national security and no questions are asked.
“Now those who ‘protect’ us feel emboldened to point the same finger at British Muslims. Muslims are labelled guilty by association. Doubt is insufficient to save them. They are assumed guilty before being proven innocent. We are very close to living in the days of Salem.
“If the head of counter-terrorism becomes a Witch-Finder General then any Muslim or Muslim-looking person or sympathiser best take cover.”
Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said that “smear and innuendo” had taken the place of “hard evidence” in dealing with Muslims.
After failing to get security clearance to work in the DPG, PC Farooq was transferred to duties in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in west London – where he is still serving.
His case raises the prospect of MI5 being forced to reveal secrets about how it conducts security checks.
Last night Scotland Yard defended its handling of the case saying its decisions were ‘entirely proportionate, defendable and justified’. PC Farooq could not be reached for comment at his family home in Gloucester, nor his pied-a-terre in Wimbledon, south-west London.
Extremist group Sipah Sahaba is believed to be a formal part of the Al Qaeda network and has earned notoriety by carrying out beheadings and other acts of violence.
In 2005, the Home Office banned Sipah Sahaba along with 14 other militant groups from operating in the UK, and being a member is punishable by a 10-year prison term.
Downing Street said PC Farooq had never guarded the Prime Minister or No. 10.