Excellent piece from Bartlett’s Bizarre Bazaar:
The news sources are full of the story that a ‘Muslim’ officer was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
I have two questions.
First, who leaked this story to the press, and what effect did they hope to produce?
Second, why are news sources concentrating on the fact that the officer was a Muslim?
It seems to me that the important feature of this officer’s identity was not that he was a Muslim, as did not ask to be excused from guarding the Israeli embassy prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and once the Israeli bombing of Lebanon ceased he returned to full duties. He was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon because his wife is Lebanese.
This is perfectly sensible. Indeed, one would expect that the officers responsible for assigning duties within the diplomatic protection group would have a full, in depth file on each of their officers. It astounds me that a police officer was asked to guard the embassy of a nation that is bombing and invading the nation to which his wife belongs. This has nothing to do with the officer being Muslim, but rather that his personal, familial connection to the conflict ought to have resulted in the officer being ruled out of guarding the embassy, just as an officer would be ruled out of investigating a crime in which he had an unusually personal stake. He should not have had to ask to be excused. The officer should have been given other duties for operational reasons.
The only way that, in this story, his Muslim identity trumps his Lebanese familial connection is that, as a Muslim guarding the Israeli embassy during the time concerned is that he and his family may have been especially at risk from attack by violent Islamist groups. If this is the case, then being excused from this particular duty on welfare grounds is perfectly reasonable.
Further and better particulars now available; the BBC is now quoting Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson, who told them
Mr Stephenson said: “At the height of the Israeli/Lebanon conflict in August this year the officer made his managers aware of his personal concerns which included that he had Lebanese family members.”
Following a risk assessment, a temporary decision was made not to deploy him to the Israeli embassy.
The Association of Muslim Police Officers said it was a “welfare issue” not a political one – with the officer having a Syrian father and a Lebanese wife.
The association said Pc Basha had asked to be excused from his duties because he felt “uncomfortable and unsafe”.
Superintendent Dal Babu, from the association, told BBC News Pc Basha was now back on diplomatic protection group duties and that “if an incident happens at the Israeli embassy he will deal with it”.
That is, while Lord Mackenzie, the former president of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales who is also quoted in the story, is doubtless correct in saying
“What we don’t want is a situation where one particular section of the community is given special reasons for not performing duties because that will simply alienate the rest”
that’s not what happened. An individual officer was temporarily reassigned because of his particular family circumstances, not because he was a member of any particular section of the community.
As Andrew Bartlett asks, why report the incidental fact that he’s a Muslim?
I doubt, after all, it would have been reported as ‘Christian excused from guarding Israeli Embassy’ had he been married to one of the 39% of the Lebanese population who’s Christian.
Meanwhile, as one of the comments to Andrew Bartlett’s article suggests, it’s a rum sort of editorial judgment that makes this the lead story on the Today programme, and ignores this, from the Telegraph:
Police today pledged to put an end to three nights of clashes, culminating in a petrol bombing, between white and Asian youths outside a Muslim-owned dairy in Windsor.
The diary is used for prayers and its owners are backing plans for a mosque in the Berkshire town.
A gang of up to 50 local youths have gathered in the area since the beginning of the week, hurling stones and abuse at diary staff.
They have also damaged property. Last night a home-made petrol bomb was thrown from a passing motorbike but failed to ignite. Extra police are being drafted in to combat the threat of further unrest tonight.
Somehow I rather think the latter story would have received a bit more publicity had it been gangs of Muslim youths attacking a dairy whose owners were objecting to the planned mosque.
Technorati tags: UK, press, Islam, Police, Spin