Thursday, 5 July 2007

Degree of Uncertainty

Professor Ahmed Ali, who taught suspected car bomber Dr Bilal Abdullah at the University of Baghdad until 2004, has made some startling revelations in today's Telegraph.

Of course, there's nothing particularly startling about suggestions that the suspected terrorist was a hard line radical even in his student days, although it does raise questions about his suitability for a post in the NHS.

No, by far the most alarming of Professor Ali's comments are that the University passed Bilal Abdullah with good grades because it was "the only way to get him out [of the University]," and they feared reprisals if they didn't.

Well, thanks a bunch, Prof. The grades with which you ushered this belligerent little herbert off your premises, no doubt with a great sigh of relief, were the very same grades that smoothed his path to a post at a Glasgow hospital. What is the point of Gordon Brown making belated but comforting noises about background checks for overseas doctors when we cannot even trust their university to award them degrees that reflect their ability?

And, if Bilal Abdullah's qualifications are, indeed, bogus, what guarantee do we have that this is an isolated incident? The answer to both questions has to be: none, as far as I can see.

It would be foolish to assume that Bilal Abdullah and the other arrested suspects are the only proto-terrorists to infiltrate the NHS, and, if Professor Ali is to be believed, even more foolish to assume that we can weed out the rest through intensive background checks.

So what can be done to ensure the safety of British citizens in their own country? I am very much afraid that some very difficult and unpleasant decisions will soon be thrust upon Mr Brown's somewhat battered government. One will be whether the UK wishes to continue importing overseas doctors, and another will be whether we wish to continue using the services of those already here.

Under any other circumstances, I would find such a concept to be absolutely unacceptable, as creed and colour are irrelevant to me. Nevertheless, as Professor Ali's comments show, it may no longer be possible to be tell the good guys from the bad guys with any degree of certainty. As a result, it may become necessary, with considerable regret, to give this option some thought. Such is the true legacy of terrorism - when the fires have been extinguished and the wreckage cleared, suspicion and doubt remain.

Be that as it may, we certainly have the wherewithal to implement such a decision, since the UK has 1000s of junior doctors who are currently unemployed. The big questions are whether it is necessary in the interests of public safety, and, if it is, whether Gordon Brown has the bottle to do it.

Right now, I wouldn't fancy his job at all.

Billy Seggars.

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