Muslim man stopped and searched on way to mosque for ‘wearing too many clothes’

Muhammad Chamoune was stopped, handcuffed and searched as he walked to Friday prayers

May Bulman
Friday 14 July 2017 13:14 BST
Muslim filmed being detained by police for being overdressed

A Muslim man was subjected to a stop and search by police officers because they thought he was wearing too many clothes as he walked to Friday prayers.

Muhammad Chamoune was heading to London's Regent’s Park Mosque when he was pulled over by officers from the capital's Metropolitan Police.

Video footage of the incident shows Mr Chamoune standing handcuffed as officer question and search him.

A woman, reportedly an off-duty officer, can also be seen. She is thought to have alerted the force because she was concerned at the number of layers the man was wearing.

The officers put on plastic gloves before they start to search him, going through his pockets and taking out his belongings.

The man filming the incident can be heard saying: “He’s going to the mosque. He’s got nothing on him I can vouch for him.”

Two other officers arrive and take Mr Chamoune’s name and he remains quiet and patient as he continues to be searched. Six minutes later, he is released.

The film of the incident, which has has been shared more than 18,000 times and had more than five million views, has been branded “unlawful” and “unreasonable” by members of the public.

It is said to have “caused major concern for Muslims across the UK”.

One Twitter wrote: “Walking while being Muslim — that was what the issue was”.

Another wrote: “So just because he is Muslim, has a beard and wears a few layers is reasonable grounds to stop and search?”

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which governs police powers to stop and search, outlines that the police must have “reasonable grounds for suspicion” prior to being able to use stop and search powers (PACE Code A 2.2).

It states that a person’s physical appearance cannot be used to support "reasonable suspicion" unless “the police have information or intelligence which provides a description of a person suspected of carrying an article for which there is a power to stop and search.”

But the Metropolitan Police said the officers responded “quickly and appropriately” to the situation, saying the man was “deemed to be acting suspiciously in the vicinity of a mosque”.

The advocacy body Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), which works to tackle islamophobia, said in a statement the footage had been a "major" cause for concern for Muslims across Britain, but urged caution in formulating premature judgements regarding the police action.

Sufyan Ismail, founder of the advocacy group, later told The Independent MEND's Islamophobia Response Unit had been in touch with the Met Police and Mr Chamoune and intended to host a roundtable to discuss the incident.

"We have noted the statement by the Met Police for the reasons behind their search and now intend on hosting a meeting with all parties involved to conclude on the matter," he said.

A Met spokesperson said: “Officers responded quickly and appropriately to a man who was deemed to be acting suspiciously in the vicinity of a mosque.

“Officers are aware of the vulnerability of faith premises and acted accordingly. It is imperative that we act on information we receive positively and proactively to help safeguard communities.

“The man was searched, he was not arrested. Officers explained the reasons for the search and no complaint has been received at this stage."

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