A paramedic was suspended after colleagues came forward to report her for making Islamophobic comments. Soon after, she was officially found guilty of misconduct for the “discriminatory” remarks.
Having worked for the London Ambulance Service for a decade, Deena Best could be considered a seasoned paramedic and a valuable asset to her employer. However, all it took to jeopardize her career was a handful of controversial remarks that her coworkers found distasteful.
In what she believed to be a private conversation with coworkers, Best allegedly said, “I don’t like Muslims,” despite working alongside several professed followers of Islam, according to the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, this was only the start of a list of “problematic” comments that later earned Best her suspension.
During a conversation between her coworkers about fasting during Ramadan, Best apparently interjected “out of the blue” with her unwelcome opinion. Best allegedly said that she doesn’t particularly like followers of Islam, according to a disciplinary panel at the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS).
“(Mrs Best) then said something along the lines of, ‘I don’t differentiate between people, I don’t like Muslims.’ (He) said he brushed the comment off and hoped it was a joke. As the conversation continued, (the other colleague) asked if there were any mosques in the area, which is when (Mrs Best) said, ‘Mosques are bloody popping up everywhere.'”
The Muslim colleague claims that he joking replied, “We are taking over,” in order to lighten the mood. However, the conversation took a bizarre turn when Best chastised him that making such a statement could get him in trouble with his employers. Little did she know that she would be the one on the chopping block.
“He hoped that everyone would laugh and move on, however (Mrs Best) said something along the lines of, ‘You can’t say something like that. I can get you in trouble.’ He did not consider that the Registrant was joking.”
The Muslim colleague also told the panel that Best expressed to him that she didn’t want to talk to him anymore “as he is a Muslim” and accused him of looking “like a bomber because of the way he dresses.”
Another colleague alleged that Best commented on her Muslim coworker’s appearance, remarking that he resembled Osama Bin Laden because of his lengthy beard. She allegedly recommended that he shave his facial hair to appear more approachable.
It was also told that she said to another colleague, “You should be careful running with your Paramedic bag as you could be mistaken for a bomber,” called him “Osama” and told him to shave his beard.
The judgement states the colleague recalled, “It was in the winter time when he had grown his beard, and it had grown quite long. He said that he recalled Mrs Best saying to him that he looked like Osama bin Laden due to the length of his beard. (He) said that Mrs Best said that beards were ‘horrible’ and that she was not a ‘beard person.'”
During the disciplinary hearing, Best regretted her comments but swore that they were all in jest and never intended to be taken seriously. However, the panel rejected her claim, arguing that the remarks were “of an inherent, derogatory stereotype based on race and/or religion.”
The panel also accused Best of having “expressed the unjust and prejudicial treatment of individuals based on their membership or presumed membership of a race and/or religion.” The tribunal ruled that Best should be suspended from her job for 9 months. Afterward, a spokesperson for LAS NHS Trust confirmed that Best was found guilty of misconduct.
“We take racially abusive behaviour extremely seriously and there is no place for it in our organisation which prides itself on values of respect, inclusivity and professionalism at all times.”
The ruling against Deena Best was determined solely based on the word of her colleagues. Even more disturbing is that no evidence was ever required, but a sinister motive was still attributed to her comments.
Best was lucky to get away with such a punishment. Other tribunals have penalized the accused with massive fines, removal of their licenses, and even indefinite barring from their business practices.