Muslim RAF man loses call-up appeal

A MUSLIM RAF reservist from Suffolk disciplined for refusing a call-up order before the Iraq war because of his faith has lost an appeal against the punishment.

By Richard Smith

A MUSLIM RAF reservist from Suffolk disciplined for refusing a call-up order before the Iraq war because of his faith has lost an appeal against the punishment.

Leading Aircraftsman Mohisin Khan, now an insurance clerk with Churchill in Ipswich, told a military court last month that he feared he would "go to hell" if he fought in the conflict.

But judge advocate Jack Bayliss, sitting at the summary appeal hearing at RAF Uxbridge, west London, yesterday dismissed the appeal and upheld the original sentence of seven days' loss of privileges.

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This means that the next time LAC Khan, who is understood to still be a reservist, is called up he could be asked to parade in his uniform at certain times and face other restrictions.

Last night, LAC Khan declined to comment at his home in Gonville Close, Woodbridge.

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But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of this case. It vindicates the service arrangements for registering a conscientious objection. It does not require an individual to go absent without leave."

But a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: "We are greatly disappointed by this verdict. We very much regret the fact the MoD saw fit to pursue this matter so far at a time when it and the armed forces are actively trying to recruit more people from the minority faith communities.

"Their insensitive action against Mohisin Khan and inability to reflect his beliefs can only adversely affect the recruitment drive."

During last month's disciplinary hearing, LAC Khan, 24, was also sentenced to nine days' loss of pay for going AWOL in February and March.

The judge said yesterday he would not review that part of the sentence as it was an administrative punishment, according to RAF spokesman Dale Donovan.

LAC Khan told the military court last month that his faith made him view the war as "unjustified".

He said he was torn between his duty and his religion during the Iraq pre-deployment training.

His faith only allowed for fighting in self-defence, which this war was not, but he denied using his religion as a "ploy" to avoid a call up.

He feared if he did fight he would be "judged on that by Allah" and "go to hell".

LAC Khan joined the RAF as a medical assistant in December 1999 but left the service in April 2001. He was granted early retirement on condition that he remained a reservist for six years.

He failed to turn up as required at his base, RAF Honington, near Bury St Edmunds, on February 24 and he was arrested at home, where he cares for his widowed mother, on March 5 and taken back to the base.

He said he did not mention his religion to officers before going AWOL because of the way Muslims were being treated in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The RAF has always maintained the reservist was not going to be sent to Iraq but was being called up to help prepare those who would be.

Judge Advocate Bayliss had already ruled that LAC Khan was given details on how to apply to for conscientious objector status but not until the third conversation with a superior.

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