London transport chiefs apologise to passengers after driver stops to pray
A MUSLIM bus driver stunned passengers when he stopped his vehicle and began praying in the aisle this week -with the engine still running.
The driver, according to this report, parked without warning – then used a fluorescent jacket as an improvised prayer mat. He took off his shoes, knelt down facing Mecca, and began to chant.
The prayer session held up the bus for more than five minutes with no-one able to get on or off.
Passenger Gayle Griffiths, 33, complained to Transport for London about the bizarre incident on the No 24 bus in Gospel Oak, north London. She had boarded the bus a few minutes earlier on her way home from work.
I have done the journey a million times before but I was in a hurry to get home to pick my little girl up from school. We had just picked up and let off people at a bus stop and moved off again when the driver stopped the bus very suddenly.
He got out of his cab, leaving the engine running, and walked towards the middle exit door. He laid out a fluorescent jacket on the floor and I thought that somebody must have been sick and he was covering it up. But then he took off his shoes and began praying. I was gobsmacked and quite bewildered.
Miss Griffiths said the bus driver didn’t give the passengers any explanation as to what he was doing. He hadn’t addressed the passengers at all. I didn’t say anything and nor did anyone else. I thought it would all be over in 30 seconds but it went on for over five minutes.
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.
Everyone was looking round in a mix of shock and amazement. It was truly bizarre, ludicrous and aggravating.We are delayed often enough as it is in London. 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.
Transport for London said it had apologised to all the passengers for the delay to their journey and said all Muslim drivers are being reminded that they should pray during statutory rest periods rather than hold up services.
A TfL spokesman said:
The bus company, London General, has had a word with the driver as this is not something that should be happening. TfL apologises to passengers for any inconvenience this may have caused them.
We understand that there is some flexibility in the Muslim faith as to the times of day that drivers can pray. TfL and the individual bus operating companies acknowledge and value the diversity of their staff.Â As diverse employers, TfL and the bus operators provide suitable prayer or quiet rooms at garages and other key locations for staff who wish to practise their faith.
We have asked London General to remind drivers who have a requirement to pray to use these facilities during their rest periods.
In March, 2008, The Sun carried a story that London bus driver Arunas Raulynaitis, a Muslim, had turfed passengers of a bus in Slough so that he could pray, and said distressed passengers thought he might be a fanatic. An subsequent investigation by the bus company found that Raulynaitis had actually used his statutory rest break to engage in a conversation with Allah, and there was no question of him breaking any rules.
The Sun issued an apology.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn