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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Muslim police officers? No! Police officers, full stop

Editorial by Terry Sanderson

Back in March we reported that the Government had ended funding for minority groups within the police. We cheered this, arguing that the development of sectarian policing was highly undesirable in a society where separatism is already a problem.

But the ending of Government funding does not mean that religious groups within the police force have folded. Indeed, a new support group for Muslim officers and staff has been launched at Surrey Police. It is not clear whether public money is being used to support it.

We are told that the Surrey Association of Muslim Police’s (SAMP) primary role will be to “support Muslim employees and promote a better understanding of Islam within the Force.” The Association also says it will “work with the Muslim community to increase trust and confidence in policing and improve community cohesion.”

An inauguration ceremony for the Association was held on Thursday (June 2) at Surrey Police’s headquarters at Mount Browne in Guildford and the Deputy Chief Constable was in attendance.

The ceremony included “a recitation of the Holy Quran”. During speeches, the newly elected chair and founder of Surrey Association of Muslim Police, PC Kamran Yaqub said: “The Association will perform a unique and vital role with one of its main objectives being to build trust and confidence through community engagement between the Muslim community and the police, as well as the wider Surrey community. We will also work to promote the recruitment, retention and progression of Muslim officers and staff and serve the force by being a vital point of contact whenever Muslim related issues arise.”

This is entirely wrong. We have argued before that if there is one public service that absolutely must be secular it is the police force. There should be not one whisper of sectarianism in the force and all this talk of Muslim police officers must stop. They are police officers who are Muslim, but when they are at work they must be simply police officers full stop. They must serve the whole community without fear or favour. This goes also for police officers who are (in their civilian life) Christian, Hindu, atheist or indifferent.

Indeed, it could be argued that if bridges are to be built between the Muslim community and the police, it should be non-Muslim officers who should do it, to demonstrate that the police force in its entirety can be trusted, not just those who happen to share your religion.

These religious sub-groups within the police are deeply undesirable and rather than encouraging them, the police hierarchy should start the process of dismantling them – now.

Published Fri, 10 Jun 2011