Nanny has issued an 18 point guide to officers to use when they raid Muslim homes suspected of drugs or terrorist offences.
"The Muslim community feels victimised and suspicious of counter terrorist police operations and in the current climate a search at a British Muslim household has the potential to become a critical incident and come under intense scrutiny".
It then lists 18 points that police officers should note.
- Rapid entry needs to be the last resort and raids into Muslim houses are discouraged for a number of religious dignity reasons.
- Police should seek to avoid looking at unclad Muslim women and allow them an opportunity to dress and cover their heads.
- For reasons of dignity officers should seek to avoid entering occupied bedrooms and bathrooms even before dawn.
- Use of police dogs will be considered serious desecration of the premises and may necessitate extensive cleaning of the house and disposal of household items.
- Advice should be sought before considering the use of cameras and camcorders due to the risk of capturing individuals, especially women, in inappropriate dress.
- Muslim prisoners should be allowed to take additional clothing to the station.
- If people are praying at home officers should stand aside and not disrupt the prayer. They should be allowed the opportunity to finish.
- Officers should not take shoes into the houses, especially in areas that might be kept pure for prayer purposes.
- In the current climate the justification for pre-dawn raids on Muslim houses needs to be clear and transparent.
- Non-Muslims are not allowed to touch holy books, Qurans or religious artefacts without permission. Where possible, Muslim officers in a state of 'Wudhu' (preparation before prayer) should be used for this purpose.
Whilst the above advice may be highly appropriate for an army of occupation, conducting a mass house to house search in a foreign country, it is not good practice for a domestic police force conducting a targeted raid on a house or property that the police have good reason and evidence to raid.
The "softly softly" approach puts the lives of the officers at risk, and significantly diminishes the chances of the success of the operation.
I would also venture to suggest that instead of "calming tensions" between the various communities, it will heighten them; as non Muslims, rightly or wrongly, perceive that Muslims are being given "special treatment".
I would note that I am not alone in feeling this way; the Chairman of Luton Council of Faiths, Zafar Khan, welcomed the guidelines but said the police should deal with all faiths sensitively.
"Guidelines on how to deal and interact with the community in all faiths should be welcomed.
It's a question of being sensitive and informed and if that makes the policing more effective and more sensitive that has to be a good thing."
Abdul Malik, chairman of Luton Race Advisory Forum, said:
"The police need to be sensitive when they are going into the homes of everybody - not just Muslims."
In other words, don't treat certain areas of the community as a "special case". In the eyes of the law, we should all be treated equally.
By the way, my family has had some experience of police raids themselves.
My grandmother came to London in the 1930's, from Ireland. At that time there was a bombing campaign and threat from the IRA, as such some elements of the Irish population were regarded with suspicion by their neighbours.
One day Grandmother heard a knock at the door and, on opening it, found herself facing a group of officers from Special Branch.
Seemingly a neighbour had decided that since Grandmother was Irish she was a potential terrorist, and therefore had tipped off Special Branch.
Anyhoo, the officers duly searched her home and of course found nothing. My Grandmother was totally unfazed by this and, once they had finished their search, offered the officers a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
She wasn't upset or angry about this, and was not bothered again by searches; she happily continued to live in London until the mid eighties, when she died.