Basha related to banned Muslim cleric
Muslim policeman refused to guard the Israeli embassy in London.
By GEORGE CONGER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
October 9, 2006 20:04
4 minute read.
israeli embassy, london .
(photo credit: SKY News)
The Muslim policeman who refused to guard Israel's embassy in London has links to a banned Islamic cleric, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.
Police Constable Alexander Omar Basha is related by marriage to Omar Makri Muhammad, leader of the now dissolved UK-based Islamic militant group, Al-Muhajiroun, the Telegraph stated on October 6.
The revelations of Basha's links to Bakri came the day after the Association of Muslim Police (AMP) defended his request not to be posted to guard duty at the Israeli embassy on the grounds that Muslim officers were under threat from Al-Muhajiroun and other British Islamist groups.
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The conflicting explanations put forward justifying the Metropolitan Police's handling of the Basha affair have prompted concerns among community and political leaders that the police forces were being undermined by "politically correct" attitudes towards Muslim sensibilities, and that security was being ignored in pursuit of "diversity."
Last week the London tabloid, The Sun reported that Basha, a member of the Metropolitan Police's Diplomatic Protection Group, was reassigned after he refused to guard Israel's embassy in Kensington, West London on "moral grounds."
Senior police sources told The Sun that Muslim officer objected to the Israeli bombing campaign against Hizbullah. Basha, whose family immigrated to the UK from Syria and Lebanon, also told his superiors he had participated in London anti-war protests during the 34-day war in south Lebanon.
Speaking on behalf of Basha, the AMP spokesman Superintendent Dal Babu offered a second explanation, saying the officer was in fear of his life. "There was heightened tension and al-Muhajiroun and al-Ghurabaa have targeted Muslim officers in the past and he didn't want to be in that position."
"This is an issue around the welfare of a particular officer" and not a political or religious protest, Dal Babu said.
After Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair promised an "urgent review" of the incident, Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson released a statement Thursday exonerating Basha and his superiors.
The police encouraged its officers to "be up front and honest to highlight any matters that may impact on them conducting their duties," Stephenson said.
"At the height of the Israeli/Lebanon conflict in August this year [Basha] made his managers aware of his personal concerns which included that he had Lebanese family members."
Whilst the Israeli Embassy is not his normal posting, in view of the possibility that he could be deployed there, a risk assessment was undertaken, which is normal practice. It was as a result of this risk assessment - and not because of the officer's personal views whatever they might have been - that the decision was taken temporarily not to deploy him to the Embassy," the October 5, the statement said.
Stephenson denied the decision to transfer Basha was "about political correctness. I want to make it clear that this decision was taken on the basis of risk and safety."
On October 6, the Telegraph reported Bakri married Basha and his wife at the bride's London home three years ago. Bakri gained notoriety in Britain for praising the 9/11 terror attacks and for lauding the London 7/7 bombers as the "fantastic four". Bakri had also vowed he would never warn the police if he learned of plans of suicide attacks if they were to be carried out by fellow Muslims.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke deported Bakri to Lebanon, banning his return to the UK, on Aug 12, 2005 on the grounds that his presence in the UK was "not conductive to the public good".
"I know the couple because I married them," Bakri told the Telegraph. "Alex's father-in-law is also my brother-in-law. He also asked me to give a little talk in front of the family after they got married."
Bakri said he was unaware Basha was a policeman and encouraged him to quit the force, but noted he was not now close to the family. "To be honest we didn't have a good relationship because of my radical views," the Islamic cleric said.
Jewish community leaders were discouraged by the Met's handling of the affair. "The Police told us it was not due to moral objections but after a risk assessment exercise," that Basha was excused duty, Board of Deputies of British Jews chief executive officer Jon Benjamin told the Jerusalem Post.
Labor party chairwoman, Hazel Blears, criticized the police saying it was not "right that the police should pick and choose," their assignments. Conservative party shadow Home Secretary David Davis, concurred stating, "The duty of a police officer to uphold the law must come before any political opinion that he or she may hold. It can never be acceptable to bend this principle."
Former Flying Squad commander John O'Connor rejected the Met's official explanation telling the BBC that Basha should be dismissed form the force if he could not obey his policeman's oath.
Deference to conscience was not accepted as an excuse for not performing one's duty in an August 31, disciplinary hearing for nine Glasgow firemen. The nine were disciplined after they objected to handing out community safety pamphlets to people attending a gay pride festival on June 24.
A spokesman for Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said the nine were ordered to undergo diversity training and "now accept that they should have performed their duties. Their refusal was a fundamental breach of their core responsibilities."
"Firefighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice," the spokesman said.