Bedfordshire Police have been forced to backtrack after promoting Islamophobia Awareness Month on their social media channels using a logo featuring a salute used by Islamic State militants.
The logo was drawn up by a British organisation with reported Islamist sympathies.
Bedfordshire Police experienced a public backlash against its use of the logo after tweeting it on Tuesday afternoon along with the message “we are joining the campaign to raise awareness of Islamophobia and encourage victims to report such abuse”.
The tweet contained a link to a page on the Bedfordshire Police website explaining more about Islamophobia Awareness Month, which again featured the logo: a right hand with the index finger pointing skywards.
The salute, however, has become synonymous with Islamic State propaganda, as many of its fighters pose making the salute before going into battle or carrying out suicide missions.
According to the International Business Times, the salute was adopted by the jihadist organisation as it refers to the first half of the shahada, the affirmation of Muslim faith recited at the beginning of every prayer.
The passage reads “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is his Prophet.” The raised finger is in reference to “the one [God]”.
Consequently, the public took to twitter to ask why the force was willing to adopt Islamic State iconography.
— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) November 15, 2016
— David Atherton (@DaveAtherton20) November 15, 2016
Bedfordshire Police has now withdrawn its own social media posts featuring the logo as well as the page on their website on Islamophobia Awareness Month, while taking pains to reiterate that it will “not tolerate Islamophobia”.
We have deleted Islamophobia Awareness posts. The logo was produced by a national organisation & used in good faith https://t.co/VzbUvKRXC3
— Bedfordshire Police (@bedspolice) November 16, 2016
— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) November 16, 2016
In a statement posted to Facebook, the force said that the logo was “produced by a national organisation and was used in good faith.”
It added: “As a consequence and to avoid offence, Bedfordshire Police has deleted these posts and will not tolerate Islamophobia or any other form of hatred or discrimination.”
The logo was created by Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), one of the founding members of Islamophobia Awareness Month, which is known to have Islamist sympathies.
In June MEND was criticised after it claimed that Pegida UK leader Tommy Robinson was “inciting hate” after he was pictured with a flag with “Fuck ISIS” written on it – a claim that led to his being arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred against Muslims.
Following the climb down by Bedfordshire Police, Azad Ali, Head of Community Engagement at MEND, who has previously spoken of his “love” for al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, defended the logo on the Jon Gaunt Show Wednesday morning.
He argued that the logo had been in use since 2012, “so it’s got nothing to do with ISIS, first and foremost”.
He added: “It’s just the shahada finger, which Muslims do five times a day in their prayer. It’s just a normal Muslim practice.”
“That’s what every Muslim does when they pray.”
But a Muslim listener called Rimon disputed this, and said the logo “absolutely” should be changed.
“These guys are meant to be speaking out against Islamophobia [but] this doesn’t help us Muslims”
Despite its backtrack, Bedfordshire Police appears to still be participating in Islamophobia Awareness Month.
According to the deleted website page “Hate Crime Sergeant James Hart has set up an Islamophobia Working Group, in conjunction with the Luton Council of Mosques, which has been working with Lantern, a local women’s group.” The group has created “Hate Crime Ambassadors” to encourage Muslims to report Islamophobia.