|Scotland Yard is at the centre of a new dispute over religious customs clashing with professional duties after a Muslim woman police cadet refused to shake hands with Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
The incident happened at a recent graduation ceremony where Sir Ian was inspecting a passing-out parade of 200 new recruits.
The woman, who has not been named, told officers just before the ceremony began that her strict Muslim beliefs meant that she could not exchange the traditional congratulatory handshake with the commissioner.
She also refused to be photograped with Sir Ian, reportedly claiming that she did not want the image to be used for "propaganda purposes" as the Yard endeavours to recruit more female Muslim officers.
Sir Ian was said to be incensed when told of the woman's refusal.
Training officers told the commissioner that they had "reluctantly agreed" with her request as they did not want to cancel or disrupt the ceremony at the Yard's sports and conference centre at Thames Ditton, Surrey, last month. The parade was attended by hundreds of family and friends of recruits who had completed their 18-week basic training.
One senior police source said: "This had never happened before and there are serious issues at stake. There is an inquiry into the matter."
The woman took part in the parade wearing a hijab, explaining that her faith dictates that she must not take shake hands with or kiss a man other than her father and close relative. She assured training staff that her religious code would not prevent her arresting a man.The woman is understood to have begun patrol duties in West London as part of her two-year probation period while superiors assess her suitability for the job.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "This request was only granted by members of training staff out of a desire to minimise any disruption to other's enjoyment, and to ensure the smooth running of what is one of the most important events in an officer's career. The commissioner did question the validity of this request, and the matter is being looked into.
"The officer maintains that she puts the requirements of being a police officer above her personal beliefs and only exercises the latter when she has choice to do so."
The Yard has allowed women officers to wear an adaptation of the hijab as part of their uniform since 2001. Commanders have been trying to recruit more Muslims but there are still only 300 among the Met's 35,000 officers. Fewer than 20 are women.
The Yard faced controversy last year when a Muslim officer was excused from guarding the Israeli Embassy at the height of the conflict in Lebanon. PC Alexander Omar Basha was moved to other duties after claiming that he was afraid his Lebanese relatives could be targeted if he were seen on TV.
Tahir Butt, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Police, supported the woman's behaviour. "The actions demonstrate strength of character, challenge social norms and educate others as to the diverse practices of communities of London," he said.
Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the public should not be alarmed by the officer's beliefs.
He said: "If she is called to a male victim who has been shot, the laws go out of the window. Muslim law will say, ‘Forget everything, save this life'."
Association of Muslim Police : Public servants of Allah whose duty is da'wa - keeping the United Khalifate safe for shari'a
Association of Muslim Police
To assist Muslims in the police service to observe their faith
To promote understanding of Islam within the police service and the wider community
To provide a forum for all Muslims in the police
To support their religious and welfare needs, with a view to improving their immediate working environment and retaining them in the service
To assist in the recruitment and retention of Muslim staff
To assist in the creation of a fair and just working environment for all cultural minorities.
How can we help you?
If you are a Muslim and thinking about joining the Metropolitan Police Service, we can offer you expert support and advice about life in the service and the application and selection process.
We also provide further advice and guidance to officers who wear Hijaab or Amaama Sharif while in uniform and circulate books and pamphlets about Islam to members of the MPS who genuinely want to improve their knowledge and awareness of Islam and Muslims.
The AMP has been instrumental in ensuring the provision of many relevant facilities to benefit Muslim staff. These include Hijaab for female officers, the Amaama Sharif for male officers, the freedom to wear cultural dress when not in uniform and prayer facilities, to name a few.
Membership enquiries are welcome from all members of the MPS. Associate membership is also available to spouses and family members.
All enquiries (including all media enquiries) should be emailed to:
Email [email protected]
In exceptional cases you can also contact the Secretary General on:
Tel 07792 507856
Muslim Council of Britain
Islamic Society of Britain
The Muslim News
Muslim Women's Helpline
Aims of the Association
The Association of Muslim Police (AMP) aims to:
assist Muslims in the police service to observe their faith, and to promote understanding of Islam within the police service & the wider community.
provide a forum for Muslims in the police, and support their religious and welfare needs, with a view to improving their immediate working environment and retaining them in the Service.
assist in the recruitment and retention of Muslim staff, and to assist in the creation of a fair and just working environment for all cultural minorities'
The AMP is formally recognised by the Metropolitan Police Service. It is active in pursuing faith-friendly policies and has been instrumental in ensuring the provision of many facilities to the benefit of Muslim staff, including Hijaab for female officers, ability to wear Islamic/cultural dress when not in uniform, provision of Halaal food and facilities for Salaah (Islamic Prayer).
The AMP is available to provide support and advice to Muslim candidates. Those wearing Hijaab and considering a career in the police service are advised to contact the AMP for further specialist advice.
Membership enquiries are welcome from police and civil staff candidates including PCSO's, traffic wardens and cadets. Associate membership enquiries from spouses and family members are also welcome.
All enquiries, including media enquiries should be emailed to [email protected].