Zafar Khan, chairman of Luton Council of Faiths (Photo: Luton & Dunstable on Sunday)
Police officers in England’s Bedfordshire county have been told to take off their shoes and not interrupt anyone praying during raids of Muslim homes, according to leaked guidelines.
The 18-point guide, under development before the recent London bombing attacks, says “the Muslim community feels victimized 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.”
Befordshire’s largest city is Luton, about 30 miles north of London, one of Britain’s hotbeds of radical Islam. A nail bomb was discovered in the trunk of a car at Luton’s railway station after the July 7 attacks that killed 52 people.
The Luton Race Advisory Forum said it had been in discussions with the police before the London bombing campaign about how to raid houses, reported the local newspaper Luton & Dunstable on Sunday.
The guidelines are regularly issued to all staff as a reminder of the force protocol when entering a Muslim household, a Bedfordshire Police spokesman said.
“We take very seriously the culture surrounding all faiths and feel it is important to respect those beliefs, even while carrying out police business,” the spokesman explained. “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.”
The guidelines for police offers, according to the paper, 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 artifacts without permission. Where possible, Muslim officers in a state of ‘Wudhu’ (preparation before prayer) should be used for this purpose.
Zafar Khan, chairman of Luton Council of Faiths, welcomed the guidelines but wants police to deal with all faiths sensitively, the Luton & Dunstable newspaper said.
Abdul Malik, chairman of Luton Race Advisory Forum (Photo: Luton & Dunstable on Sunday)
“Guidelines on how to deal and interact with the community in all faiths should be welcomed,” he said. “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 “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,” he said.