UK Somali driver prays in bus, scares commuters
Transport department and Muslim community apologize
The London Transport Department and the Muslim community apologized on behalf of a Somali driver who scared passengers when he pulled over and prayed on board of the bus, according to press reports.
Passengers on bus number 24 in North London panicked when the driver of Somali origins pulled over without warning and started praying. Taking off his shoes and jacket then chanting in Arabic made the commuters on board think he was preparing for a terrorist attack, the Daily Mail reported Monday.
During his five-minute prayer, the passengers were locked inside the bus thinking it will blow up at any minute. A complaint was filed with Transport for London (TfL).
Transport for London apologized for the delay and stated that the bus company, London General, warned the driver not to repeat this behavior.
TfL expressed its respect for other religions, yet stressed that drivers are not allowed to pray while on duty.
“TfL and individual bus operating companies acknowledge and value the diversity of their staff,” TfL spokesman said. “As diverse employers, TfL and the bus operators provide suitable prayer and quiet rooms at garages and other key locations for staff who wish to practice their faith.”
As diverse employers, TfL and the bus operators provide suitable prayer and quiet rooms at garages and other key locations for staff who wish to practice their faith
The driver’s behavior is not representative of Islam and is a bad example of Muslims, said Dr. Kamal al-Helbawy, founder of the Muslim Association of Britain and former spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.
“Scholars gave Muslims the permission to perform the noon and afternoon prayers together when in the West since their timings are very close,” he told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat Wednesday. “Thus, his action is by no means justified.”
Helbawy added that what the driver did might seem to be typical behavior for a devout Muslim who is keen on performing his prayers on time but this is not the case.
“Muslims in the West have to bear in mind the environment surrounding them. The involvement of several Muslims in the West in terrorist activities would make people think that what he did was something of that sort.”
In addition to causing panic among the passengers on board the bus, Helbawy explained, the driver did not take into consideration the fact that all those people have to arrive at their destinations on time.
“The least he could have done after delaying them was to apologize and offer an explanation for his actions. He owed them that.”
According to passenger Gayle Griffiths, who filed the compliant with TfL, the driver did not address the people on board the bus at all and offered no explanation for what he was doing which caused even more panic, the Daily Mail reported.
“It even went through my mind that this might be some sort of terrorist attack with the bus blown up because I had heard that suicide bombers prayed before attacks,” she said.
Griffiths said she respects diversity and people’s right to practice their faith, yet she thinks the driver’s behavior was not appropriate.
“We live in a multi-cultural society but there is a time and a place for prayer and the middle of a journey with a busload of passengers is not it,” she explained.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).
Muslims in the West have to bear in mind the environment surrounding them. The involvement of several Muslims in the West in terrorist activities would make people think that what he did was something of that sort
Dr. Kamal al-Helbawy, founder of the Muslim Association of Britain