I believe it was an old Chinese saying that said 'may you live in interesting times.' Now, more than ever, the complexities of living in a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi religious country are challenging us day in day out.
The story of the Muslim police officer who is alleged to have removed himself from the duty he was assigned guarding the Israeli embassy in London emerged this week. There are several versions of the reasons why the police officer made the request to be taken off this duty - one is for moral reasons, and his discomfort at events in Israel/Lebanon. Second, was that the officer feared for his own safety if he remained guarding the Israel embassy as he could become a target of extremists himself.
Either situation is very sad for many reasons. To have an officer excuse himself from the duty to protect the public for reasons of personal morality is problematic. Police Officers are there to protect everyone, regardless of their nationality, religion, sexuality, gender etc. Cases like this could lead us down a dangerous path of people refusing to do their duty for all sorts of personal moral reasons. Secondly, the officer's actions in effect amount to a declaration that he doesn't think the embassy deserves to be protected. That is appalling.
The other version of events is equally troublesome - that a UK citizen, doing his duty as a Police Officer, is so scared of being a target of Islamic extremisms for guarding Israel's embassy, he requests he is taken off the job. What message does that send out to people? To the Muslim community? That you could be a target of extremism if you dare guard an embassy?
There has been much heated discussion about the motives behind the officer's decision, and of course it's difficult to have a clear opinion either way when the facts remain so unclear. What the furore does represent however, is a wider and deeper debate into how we deal with issues that touch upon people's religion and personal morals, and their ability to do the job they signed up for - and the possibility of setting a dangerous precedent for the future.