Muslim WPC backed over refusal to shake police chief's hand

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British Islamic leaders have defended a Muslim woman police constable who refused to shake hands with the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair.

The woman declined to shake his hand at a passing-out parade for newly qualified recruits because of her belief that, as a Muslim, she should have no physical contact with a man not familar to her.

Muslim groups said her refusal was in line with common Islamic practice and called for greater understanding of cultural differences. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Islamic law was "not set in concrete". He said: "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."

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "This is not a sign of disrespect. I actually think the only problem is when there is cultural and religious ignorance and misunderstanding."

Scotland Yard said the woman, who has not been named, could be sacked if she failed to carry out her duties as an officer.