Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Older readers may remember that once upon a time not being racist consisted of treating people the same whatever their colour or creed. The idea being to judge them by the content of their character, skin colour being of no more significance than eye colour. Note also my elision of faith and race - after all, if it's good enough for the Government ...

Those were the days. Via Prof Bunyip and the Dumb One, an "18-point guide issued by Bedfordshire Police lists dos and don'ts when dealing with Muslims who are suspected of terrorist or drugs offences."

Police have been told to take their shoes off and not use sniffer dogs when raiding Muslim homes.

I think the Competition Commission should be called in. The fact that sniffer dogs can't be used against Muslim dealers surely gives them an advantage over dealers from other faith communities.

"The guidelines state that 'the Muslim community feels victimised and suspicious of counter terrorist police operations and in the current climate a search at a British Muslim household has the potential to become a critical incident and come under intense scrutiny'.

It then lists 18 points police officers should note.

These include:

• Rapid entry needs to be the last resort and raids into Muslim houses are discouraged for a number of religious dignity reasons.

• Police should seek to avoid looking at unclad Muslim women and allow them an opportunity to dress and cover their heads.

• For reasons of dignity officers should seek to avoid entering occupied bedrooms and bathrooms even before dawn.

• Use of police dogs will be considered serious desecration of the premises and may necessitate extensive cleaning of the house and disposal of household items.

• Advice should be sought before considering the use of cameras and camcorders due to the risk of capturing individuals, especially women, in inappropriate dress.

• Muslim prisoners should be allowed to take additional clothing to the station.

• If people are praying at home officers should stand aside and not disrupt the prayer. They should be allowed the opportunity to finish.

• Officers should not take shoes into the houses, especially in areas that might be kept pure for prayer purposes.

• In the current climate the justification for pre-dawn raids on Muslim houses needs to be clear and transparent.

• Non-Muslims are not allowed to touch holy books, Qurans or religious artefacts without permission. Where possible, Muslim officers in a state of 'Wudhu' (preparation before prayer) should be used for this purpose.

(Note - just the same way that only Catholic officers who have been shriven and received the Sacraments are used on raids against suspected Irish republican terrorists - LT)

Chairman of Luton Council of Faiths, Zafar Khan, welcomed the guidelines but said the police should deal with all faiths sensitively.

He said: "Guidelines on how to deal and interact with the community in all faiths should be welcomed.

"It's a question of being sensitive and informed and if that makes the policing more effective and more sensitive that has to be a good thing."

Abdul Malik, chairman of Luton Race Advisory Forum, said it had been in discussions with the police about how to raid houses before the London bombing campaign.

He said: "The police need to be sensitive when they are going into the homes of everybody - not just Muslims.

"They should keep respect. Some Hindus and Sikhs have a place or a room devoted to prayer and that should be respected too."

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: "The guidelines are regularly issued to all staff as a reminder of the force protocol when entering a Muslim household.

"We take very seriously the culture surrounding all faiths and feel it is important to respect those beliefs, even while carrying out police business. We would like to reassure all communities that any current or perceived tensions, which might be heightened as a result of recent events, will not affect how police deal with Muslims or anyone else."

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