Rabat - A British Muslim NHS worker was detained at a UK airport and questioned under terror laws after a cabin crew member reported her reading a Syrian culture book on board her honeymoon flight, reports The Independent.
Rabat – A British Muslim NHS worker was detained at a UK airport and questioned under terror laws after a cabin crew member reported her reading a Syrian culture book on board her honeymoon flight, reports The Independent.
Police officers questioned Faizah Shaheen, 27, for 15 minutes under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and told her the suspicions related to the holiday book she had been reading: Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.
Shaheen, a child and adolescent mental health practitioner for the NHS who helps prevent teenage mental health patients from becoming radicalized, was returning from her honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey, when she was stopped by South Yorkshire Police at Doncaster Airport on July 25, reports The Independent.
She said she now intends to make formal complaints against the police and Thomson Airways.
“I was completely innocent—I was made to feel like a culprit,” said Shaheen. “I told the police that I didn’t think it was right or acceptable.”
Shaheen said she had gotten through passport control when she was approached by two police officers and was asked to show her passport again. She was also given an information leaflet explaining that Schedule 7 legislation is used by police to determine whether a person appear to be or has been involved in terrorism.
“I became very angry and upset,” she said. “I couldn’t understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this.”
Thomson Airways issued a statement that read: “We appreciate that in this instance Ms. Shaheen may have felt that overcaution had been exercised. However, like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution.”
Shaheen adds that part of her job is to work on anti-radicalization and evaluating young people with mental health problems who are at risk of being radicalized.
“I’m actually part of trying to fight radicalization and breaking the stereotypes,” she said. “I do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn’t Muslim.”
Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, said Thomson Airways should accept it had made a “mistake,” reports the Middle East Eye.
“Reasonable people would not regard reading a book on Syria on its own, without any other concerns, as warranting the questioning of an individual,” said Vaz, “Thomson Airways should accept that a mistake was made and apologize to the woman concerned. I am sure if they had done so there would have been a better understanding of the entire situation,” said Thomas.
The book, which has been supported by Arts Council England and the Danish Centre for Culture and Development among others, is a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons and photographs from Syrian authors and artists. It has earned strong reviews and praise, including from the Times Literary Supplement, the writer Al Kennedy and the musician Brian Eno, according to the Middle East Eye.
It is also a winner of the English PEN award, reports the Independent.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire police said: “On 25 July, 2016, officers from South Yorkshire Police stopped and examined a woman under Schedule & of the Terrorism Act 2000 at Doncaster Airport.
She was not arrested, she was held for 15 minutes and was subsequently released.”