UK: National Association of Muslim Police: “Police needs more Diversity”
24.04.2013 | 12:12 | simon INOU
Zaheer Ahmad is a serving British police officer with ten years in various police departments. He is member of several national police and community boards, member of the Race Advisory Group at the British Ministry of Justice and recipient of several International, national and regionals and honours. As president of the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP) in England, Zaheer Ahmad will be attending this week the fourth EDIC, European Diversity, Business & Inclusion congress in Vienna, Austria. The congress will take place from tomorrow 25th to the 26th of April and is organised by the company Diversity Leadership.
M-MEDIA: In England you are commemorating the 20th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence´s murder. The Police, whose investigation into Stephen’s death was found to have been marred by institutional racism. How is the situation today and what has happened since the Macpherson Report and recommendations?
Zaheer Ahmad: The Stephen Lawrence Enquiry in 1998 which was commissioned after the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London was a defining moment for the police and sent a strong message that the police service needed to change and better understanding race and faith issues. Whilst, the service has improved in some areas for example there are more Family Liaison Officer‘s from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, hate crime reporting and homicide detection rates has increased. However, there are still many areas of concerns such as disproportionate numbers of BME searched on the streets, taking lack of BME officers. The police were set a target of employing 7% of officers from the black and minority ethnic (BME) population by 2009. By the end of 2008, 20 of the 43 forces in England and Wales had not reached their individual target and overall the percentage has only risen from around 2% to 4.1%. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest the service has not fully dealt with the issue of racism and discrimination.
What were the main reasons why you founded the National Association of Muslim Police. How many members do you have inside your association? And how many branches do you have in Great Britain?
The main aims of the associations are:
• To support Recruitment, Retention, Progression of Muslim officers and staff
• To promote Equality and Diversity in the public sector
• Tackle Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime
• Enhance Community Cohesion and improve Trust & Confidence of our communities
There are over 2500 members and 11 local branches with few more in the interim phase.
How important was it (and is it) to have an association like yours? How do the association works with other police departments?
The business case for a diverse police service is clear. London, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester and Yorkshire have many areas within them where the majority population is Black and Asian. The police service is the only public body that remains virtually all white in the hierarchy. You only need to look on the internet to see force after force where every member of the Senior Management Team is white. What does this say to our diverse communities? Sorry we are still working on diversity? NAMP along with other associations continue to encourage the police to embrace diversity and its positive effect on the service.
Can you please tell us what the main challenges were (at the beginning) and what are they now?
In addition to challenges that a new organisation will face such as resources, funding, and office space we also had to work hard to establish the association as a trusted partner during a sensitive climate and a backdrop of tension and increasing anti-Muslim hate crime and prejudice following the terrorist events in America 9/11 and in London 7/7. This group has grown from strength to strength and we have not shied away from being at the forefront of topical issues that affect Muslims within the force and the community.
NAMP is now a key partner both within the Police Service and the Muslim communities; we have taken the lead on many initiatives on behalf the police service and the Muslim communities. By far the biggest challenge is to tackle Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate crime.
What is the relationship between your association and other minorities inside the police?
Historically all national groups have been very territorial, keen to maintain their unique identity and place in the police service. From time to time we may disagree on the way forward but ultimately we all want the same thing which is to make the police service more transparent and representative of the communities it serves.
We have developed and maintained positive working relationship with all minority groups in the police service, as there are issues which cross over between race, faith, gender and so on. For example a black officer of Muslim faith may face discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity as well as religion. Therefore it is vital for all minority groups to take concerted and united approach in addressing diversity related issues. We have signed Memorandum of Understanding with number of other groups such as the British Association of Women in Policing to formalise our partnership and encourage a closer working partnership.
In a global context of worldwide Islamophobia in our societies, How do you deal with this topic inside your association and the national police
Western democracies are encountering deep socio-economical, political and societal crisis. European democracies, which have been known for respecting the fundamental rights of its citizens, are experiencing the rise of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and violent extremism. These unfortunate developments are not only causing fear and restlessness among the ethnic and religious minorities but also resulting in the prohibition of positive movement towards cohesiveness as well as the restriction of basic freedom. Mainstream political discourse, particularly in times of elections, is contaminated by xenophobic and anti-Muslim statements, which aim to portray Muslims as the reason for the failure of the policies promoting diversity and co-existence. Needless to say that such statements are not backed by any scientific research or data collection but because of populism and voter’s consideration as well as curtail the presence of Muslim communities through draconian laws and xenophobic reactions. At the same time, the democratic demands from the Muslim communities are being ignored. There is very little acknowledgment of the contributions of Muslim and indeed other ethnic communities to European development in the fields of labor and service market, business, culture, sports, demographic changes and indeed in many other sectors.
By addressing issues that affect the Muslim communities and raising awareness of these issues at a strategic level within the police service at national police board we continue to bridge the gap between the police and the Muslim communities. We also work closely with national stakeholders such as the college of policing. We organised the first ever Police led Islamophobia conference, issued a key report on Islamophobia, organised several high level seminars, meetings and focus groups. We have also written many articles, contributed towards many academic reports and work with European partners such as Council of Europe and Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Do you advise other minorities from other European countries Countries to set up their own groups inside the police? If yes why?
I don’t believe in taking a proactive approach to contacting colleagues whether in the UK or aboard with the view of encouraging them to set up similar group. There must be internal appetite for this group; the appetite must pass the necessity test to warrant the formation. All our local branches in the UK were set up after we were contacted by colleagues from those forces; once an initial approach is made we will then work closely with the Muslim officers and senior officers from that police force to discuss the best way forward. The process involves force wide consultation, drafting business case, constitution, ensuring the aims of the association are in line with the force objectives and establishing formal agreements with the force. We have offered advice on variety of Muslim-Police issues to colleagues from various countries.
You are for a bottom-up not a top-down approach in order to strengthen Minority groups inside Police Institutions?
Ideally we need strong leadership from the top coupled with positive collective action from front line officers to deliver change. Sadly, there aren’t many senior Black and minority Ethnic (BME) officers thus placing the burden firmly on junior rank officers to lead on Race and faith issues. In the last year we have gone backwards we are down to three BME chief officers from almost 250 and 11 chief Superintendents and 35 superintendents from almost 1500.
Thank you for the interview
You are welcome.
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