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A Muslim police officer who was removed from a special unit that guards dignitaries such as Prime Minister Tony Blair has filed a complaint alleging discrimination.
In a front-page story, The Independent newspaper reported Tuesday that Amjad Farooq, 39, was removed from London's Metropolitan Police's Diplomatic Protection Group SO16 after being told that he was a threat to national security because two of his five children had allegedly attended a mosque associated with a Muslim cleric linked to a suspected terrorist group.
The officer also was told that his presence might upset the American secret service, which worked with the Met's 600-officer close-protection unit, the paper said.
A spokesman at Scotland Yard confirmed that a police officer has filed a complaint to an employment tribunal alleging discrimination on the grounds of race and religious belief, but would not identify the employee by name.
In August, another Diplomatic Protection Group officer, Alexander Omar Basha, raised concern that if he was seen on television guarding the Israeli Embassy in London his relatives in Lebanon could be in jeopardy during fighting there between Israeli forces and Hizbullah. The Met told him he would not have to guard that embassy.
Farooq had been a firearms specialist working for the Wiltshire Constabulary in western England before he was transferred to the Diplomatic Protection Group SO16, which protects officials at government, diplomatic and Metropolitan Police sites. Such officers are required to undergo security vetting, including a counter-terrorism check.
The Independent said that on Dec. 16, 2003, the force told Farooq that he had failed the check because his 9-year-old and 11-year-old sons had attended their local mosque for religious studies when the building was associated with an imam the police suspected had links to an extremist Islamic group. Farooq, who denied any such links or inappropriate behavior, had been working for the Diplomatic Protection Group for six weeks at that point.
The Independent quoted Farooq's lawyer, Lawrence Davies, as saying that Muslims such as Farooq often are unjustly seen as a national security threat without any evidence.