Mosque defends firearms officer stripped of his post

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Senior members of a mosque attended by a Muslim firearms officer who was stripped of his job protecting dignitaries have rallied to his defence.

PC Amjad Farooq, 39, a father of five children, is suing the Metropolitan Police for race and religious discrimination after he was withdrawn from the prestigious Diplomatic Protection Group (SO16) after failing a counter-terrorism check (CTC).

Officers in charge of vetting appointments to SO16 raised concerns that Mr Farooq's two sons were being taught by a "radical'' cleric in Swindon.

PC Farooq was a worshipper at the Jamia Masjid Mosque, in Swindon, which regulars say has never aroused police suspicion.

Azim Khan, joint secretary of the mosque, said: "He [Mr Farooq] would not hurt a fly. These allegations are ridiculous, to associate him with people like Abu Hamza is laughable. There was a time, three years ago, when there were disagreements on the mosque committee, but it was nothing to do with terrorism and these people have left. You can't be blamed, just for knowing someone.''

The Independent revealed yesterday that PC Farooq was a firearms specialist working for the Wiltshire Constabulary when he was transferred to the Diplomatic Protection Group SO16 (DPG), whose main role is to provide static protection at government, diplomatic and Metropolitan Police sites. All officers within the DPG are required to undergo security vetting including a CTC.

On 16 December 2003, PC Farooq was told that he had failed his CTC. By then, he had been working for the DPG for six weeks.

The Met referred to the fact that PC Farooq's two sons, aged 9 and 11, had attended their mosque for religious studies when the building was associated with an iman whom the police say they had grounds to investigate over possible links to an extremist Islamic group.

The iman held a senior position at Jamia Masjid Mosque but stood down three years ago after falling out with the committee.

A woman who answered the door at the imam's home in Swindon said he was on holiday in Pakistan and due back next month.

PC Farooq's lawyer, Lawrence Davies, said he was unable to comment on the case. But he said he could talk about points of general principle that it raised. He said: "The police know that this happens all the time. A police officer will say that they do not wish to work somewhere or make a certain arrest because of personal reasons or conflicts of interest. This is not a bad thing. In the Stephen Lawrence case it would have been useful for the investigating police officers who knew the family of the alleged perpetrators to have requested not to act in that matter. The culture of fear we have in this country now, means that if a Muslim officer makes the same request, the press say that the police have lost control and senior police officers speak of mutiny in the ranks."

The Met stood by its decision yesterday. A spokeswoman said: "Decisions that the Metropolitan Police Service have taken in this particular case are entirely proportionate, defendable and justified."