THE Metropolitan Police has defended its decision to remove a Muslim firearms officer from a top protection squad.

PC Amjad Farooq, 39, is taking legal action against the Met after he was removed from the Diplomatic Protection Group SO16, a close protection unit in charge of guarding Downing Street and the US embassy.

Mr Farooq had been working with the unit for six weeks, after transferring from Wiltshire Police, when he was told he had failed his security checks.

Officers in charge of vetting SO16 candidates claimed that two of his children, aged nine and 11, had been taught by a radical cleric in Swindon.

Mr Farooq was also allegedly told that his presence might upset the American secret service, which worked with the Met's close-protection unit.

The Met described the decisions taken as "entirely proportionate, defendable and justified."

"We carry out appropriate vetting of officers and staff throughout their careers," the MPS said in a statement.

"The level of vetting increases according to the sensitivity of the roles that officers and staff have to perform."

However, members of a mosque attended by the Muslim officer have branded the stance as "laughable".

Senior members of the Jamia Masjid mosque in Swindon, which PC Farooq and his family used to attend, came to his defence today.

Joint secretary Azim Khan said: "These allegations are ridiculous - to associate him with people like Abu Hamza is laughable.

"There was a time, three years ago, when there were disagreements on the mosque committee, but it was nothing to do with terrorism and these people have left. You can't be blamed, just for knowing someone."

The officer came under suspicion because of his association with an iman whom police said they had grounds to investigate over possible links with an extremist Islamic group.

The religious leader had held a senior position at Jamia Masjid Mosque but stood down three years ago following rows with the committee.

However, Qazi Abdul Qayyum, an elder at the mosque, said the cleric had no known links to radical groups and claimed the mosque had not been investigated.

The Muslim Council of Britain criticised the police for accepting "smear and innuendo" in the place of hard evidence.

Mr Farooq is taking the Met police to an employment tribunal, claiming he was the victim of racial and religious discrimination.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: "The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has been notified of an employment tribunal claim by an MPS Pc alleging discrimination on the grounds of race and religious belief.

"According to reports today, the father-of-five was told he was a threat to national security because his children had attended a mosque associated with a Muslim cleric linked to a suspected terrorist group."