Queen Elizabeth II told a BBC reporter she was unhappy that an Egyptian cleric… (Associated Press )
A few years ago, Michelle Obama placed her hand on the royal back. Now Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has suffered another indignity: A namedropping reporter has revealed to the world that the monarch confessed to being "pretty upset" that an incendiary Islamic holy man was living unmolested in her kingdom.
Frank Gardner, a national security correspondent for the BBC, disclosed Tuesday that years ago, the queen had complained that police hadn't arrested Abu Hamza Masri, an Egyptian cleric who preached jihadist sermons at a North London mosque. Masri was in the news this week because a European court affirmed that he could be extradited to the United States, where he faces charges that he tried to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
The BBC statement, issued after Gardner blew the queen’s cover in a radio broadcast, gives new meaning to the word "abject":
"This morning on the Today programme our correspondent Frank Gardner revealed details of a private conversation which took place some years ago with the Queen. The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence. It was wholly inappropriate. Frank is extremely sorry for the embarrassment caused and has apologized to the Palace."
As the New York Times put it, Gardner had committed a "shocking breach of etiquette" by divulging the contents of a private conversation with the queen, especially one that touched on the political affairs from which she is supposed to remain aloof. In this case, the queen apparently didn’t just communicate her concern to Gardner; she told him that she'd had a word with Britain’s top law-and-order official, the home secretary.
That's news -- or would have been news at the time. But apparently "etiquette" required that the royal meddling be kept secret.
That said, the queen may not mind that her subjects have been given a window into her thinking about the appropriateness of Masri's presence in her realm. Asked (in private) for a comment about Gardner's gaffe, I suspect she would answer: "We are not abused."
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