Warning for Muslim WPc who refused to shake Met chief's hand
Scotland Yard said yesterday that a Muslim woman police who refused to shake hands with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at her passing-out ceremony would be dismissed if she did not "engage" with people as other officers do.
Sir Ian Blair personally congratulated all 200 recruits at a ceremony in London last month, but shook hands with only 199 after the woman specifically requested that she should not be required to do so, apparently for religious reasons.
She also asked not to have her photograph taken with Sir Ian, Scotland Yard said, but a spokesman refused to confirm reports that the officer had cited her concern that a picture would be used for "propaganda purposes".
A spokesman said Sir Ian had questioned "the validity" of her request at the time and an investigation was now going on into the incident. The statement said: "Ordinarily, the Metropolitan Police Service would not tolerate such requests.
"This request was only granted by members of training staff out of a desire to minimise any disruption to others' enjoyment, and to ensure the smooth running of what is one of the most important events in an officer's career."
The statement added: "An officer's probationary period is designed specifically to ensure that they undertake the role as required. If this does not occur the officer may be required to leave the service as any variation on this will not be tolerated." The Yard said the WPc, who has not been named, had made it clear that ordinarily she would put her policing duties before her personal beliefs, except where she was able to make a choice to do so.
A spokesman suggested that she would be carefully watched during her two-year probationary period, adding: "Any refusal to engage in this manner would not be tolerated by the Metropolitan Police Service.
" Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said the "overwhelming majority" of practising Muslims would avoid physical contact with a member of the opposite sex unless they were closely related.
But he added that those employed as police officers or doctors, for example, would not have a problem with touching people in order to fulfil their duties.
"This is not a sign of disrespect or anything. Indeed this is also the case with the Orthodox Jewish community," he said. "I don't think shaking hands is something that makes or breaks a relationship.
I don't think in any sort of job that is something that becomes an obstacle to one performing one's duties. I actually think the only problem is when there is cultural and religious ignorance and misunderstanding." Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Muslim law could be adapted to fit circumstances.
"If the officer is called to a male victim who has been shot, the laws go out of the window. If she has to resuscitate that dying person, Muslim law will then change and allow her all sorts of physical contact because a life is at risk and life is so precious."