London's police chief on Thursday launched an urgent review of a decision not to post a Muslim officer at the Israeli embassy after a newspaper reported that he had been excused on moral grounds.
PC Alexander Omar Basha, who is attached to the force's Diplomatic Protection Group, objected to being posted to protect Israel's embassy in central London from possible terrorist attack because he disagreed with the country's bombing of Lebanon during the recent war.
According to British newspaper 'the Guardian', the officer had reportedly attended a recent anti-war protest.
Police chiefs excused Basha last week but critics said they feared it would open the floodgates for officers of any religion or belief to refuse to carry out certain duties.
"Having learned of this issue I have asked for an urgent review of the situation and a full report into the circumstances," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said in a statement.
Slippery slopeJohn O'Connor, a former Metropolitan Police flying squad commander, told the London-based Sun newspaper: "This is the beginning of the end for British policing."
"If they can allow this, surely they'll have to accept a Jewish officer not wanting to work at an Islamic national embassy. Will Catholic cops be let off working at Protestant churches? Where will it end? This decision is going to allow officers to work in a discriminating and racist way," he added.
Police explained that officers occasionally asked to be moved from a specific duty.
"Every case is considered separately, balancing the needs of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) against those of the individual...the needs of the MPS take precedence and the organization reserves the right to post an officer anywhere in the MPS," it said.
According to the Guardian, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said Commissioner Blair had ordered a rethink of the service's policy to consider special dispensations on moral grounds.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government continues to try and improve integration among Britain's ethnic and religious communities. It launched the campaign after suicide bomb attacks by four Islamists on London's transport network in July last year killed 52 commuters.
The spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London, Lior Ben David, told Ynet in response to the affair that the embassy has full faith in the British police's ability to provide it with maximum security, and in its capacity to address this serious matter. He added that the embassy was updated on the issue prior to the story's publication in the press.
Reuters and Hagit Klaiman (London) contributed to the report