‘Get off my bus, I need to pray’

81 busThat was the headline to an article in the Sun, which informed its readers that “a Muslim bus driver told stunned passengers to get off so he could PRAY. The white Islamic convert rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca. Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant.”

This story, along with the accompanying video clip, was widely circulated around the right-wing blogosphere, where it was presented as yet another example of the “Islamification” of the West. The Freethinker took it as conclusive proof that “the lunacy that is Islam has now insinuated itself into Britain’s public transport system”. Dhimmi Watch introduced the Sun report as a case “from our ever-expanding You Can’t Make This Stuff Up file”.

Except that in reality, and predictably, it turns out that the story was made up. The Slough and Windsor Observer reports:

“London United Busways say they have carried out a full investigation after driver Arunas Raulynaitis rolled out his prayer mat to perform his daily prayers, facing Mecca on the number 81 bus in Langley. Bosses have analysed evidence, including CCTV footage, and say the driver was actually on his 10-minute break when the incident took place at around 1.30pm on Thursday.

“They added that the control room had in fact radioed Mr Raulynaitis to terminate the bus outside Langley Fire Station in London Road because it was running late due to road works. Passengers were asked to leave the vehicle while they waited for another bus to pick them up to complete their journey.

“Steffan Evans, spokesman for London United Busways, said: ‘The bus was delayed and by the time it had reached Langley the next bus on the route had caught up. At this point the bus service controller decided that in order to maintain the frequency of the buses he would curtail the late bus, and therefore instructed the driver to transfer his passengers in order that they could continue their journey without any further delay’.”

Of course, this doesn’t prevent the paper from heading its article “Bosses defend Muslim who stopped the 81 bus to pray“.

Update:  See also Five Chinese Crackers.

Update 2:  See “Sun pays £30,000 damages to Muslim bus driver accused of fanaticism”, Guardian, 26 February 2009