Anti-terrorism police in Finningley, United Kingdom, interrogated a British Muslim woman for over 15 minutes at the Doncaster Airport — all because a flight attendant spotted her reading a Syrian culture book on board her honeymoon flight.
South Yorkshire Police detained Faizah Shaheen, an adolescent mental health services practitioner for the NHS who ironically works on anti-radicalization, when she was returning home from honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey.
As it turns out, a Thomson Airways cabin crewmember on her outbound flight a fortnight earlier had reported her for suspicious behavior, which was reading a book titled “Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.”
“I was queuing at passport control and saw police staring at me. I just got through passport control and then two police officers approached me and took me aside and asked me to show my passport again,” Shaheen said, according to The Independent. “I asked what was going on and they said I had been reported due to a book I was reading and was to be questioned under the Terrorism Act.”
The officers questioned her under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. They even gave her an information leaflet, explaining that the anti-terror legislation is used to determine whether a person appears to be or has been involved in terrorism.
“It was a very hurtful experience to go through. I fight for different causes and then to be victimized and experience this first-hand and made me realize how bad it is,” she continued. “Instead of reminiscing about our honeymoon I am left talking about this experience.”
The 27-year-old works on anti-radicalization by assessing vulnerable young people with mental health problems who are at risk of being radicalized.
“I said that to the police. I’m actually part of trying to fight radicalization and breaking the stereotypes,” she added. “I do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn’t Muslim.”
Shaheen was released after the questioning, but the ordeal left her feeling humiliated and a victim of racial and religious discrimination. She now intends to lodge a formal complaint against the police and Thomson Airways.
“I was completely innocent — I was made to feel like a culprit,” the woman exclaimed.
“Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline” is an award-winning book by Malu Halasa. It is a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons and photographs from Syrian authors and artists. Shaheen bought it after someone recommended it to her at Bradford literature festival in May.
Meanwhile, the airline released a statement, saying that while they understand Shaheen’s frustration, the crew is also compelled to report any concerns as a precaution.
“Our crew undergo general safety and security awareness training on a regular basis. As part of this they are encouraged to be vigilant and share any information or questions with the relevant authorities,” a representative said. “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.”