In the UK, Police Officers, while on duty, are permitted to display support to three government approved charities (‘Police Memorial Day’ badges, ‘Royal British Legion Remembrance Day’ poppies and ‘Help for Heroes’ badges and wristbands). The only exception in the UK to this is the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that does not permit any displays of charity support from its officers.
On 22nd June 2015 video of Anjem Choudary arose to public attention in which he was questioning a UK police officer over why he was wearing a wrist band supporting the Army veteran charity ‘Help for Heroes’. The footage of the video raised a storm of outrage at Anjem Choudary for the provocative manner of his questioning, and from nationalists at the fact that a police officer had allowed the questioning in the first place.
Abdullah al Andalusi was invited to discuss the issue alongside retired army commander Doug Beattie on BBC Radio Ulster. Abdullah al Andalusi denounced Anjem Choudary’s accosting of the Police officer. However, the issue was raised that the government should be consistent, either all police officers should be allowed to support any charity they deem fit while on duty (not just the three government approved ones), or none at all. The Police are public servants and either must be neutral, or free to choose what they support as individuals, they shouldn’t be used as billboards for some charities over others. They shouldn’t be required to limit support to only a government sanctioned selection of charities, especially those that may be linked to controversial issues, such as UK military foreign policy, as this would raise the question of partiality in the public services.
Abdullah asked why not allow UK police wearing bands supporting charities that support orphans in Iraq or Afghanistan (many of whom became orphans as a result of UK foreign policy)? It is interesting to note that the UK Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) holds a policy of complete neutrality. The other speaker, retired Captain Doug Beattie agreed with Abdullah’s points on Police forces should be consistent and allow more charities to be supported, but left it ‘for the forces to decide which charities are permitted’.
Abdullah then raised the issue that the government has banned members of the civil service from engaging or supporting political dissenters it calls ‘extremists’ (aka politically engaged Muslims), so where is the consistency from the government? The government clamps down on legal causes or political opinions it doesn’t approve of, but supports others which may not be widely supported by the tax paying public. It was argued that it was unfair for the public services to support one cause over others, especially when it is the public who pay taxes that support these services may disagree with the government-sanctioned opinions/causes being advocated.
“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Channel: BBC Radio Ulster
Date: 22nd June 2015
Doug Beattie, ret. Cpt. Royal Irish Regiment
Abdullah al Andalusi, speaker for Muslim Debate Initiative