I want an apology, says Leeds woman detained under terror laws for reading Syrian art book

Faizah Shaheen
Faizah Shaheen
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A Muslim woman from Leeds detained under the Terrorism Act after an airline cabin crew member spotted her reading a Syrian art book on board her honeymoon flight has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help secure an apology.

Faizah Shaheen, a mental health worker, was detained by police after stepping off the plane from Turkey at Doncaster airport in July 2016.

Being detained by the counter-terrorism police after my honeymoon because I was reading a book about art and culture was humiliating and all I want is an apology for being treated in this way.

Faizah Shaheen

She says a Thomson Airways cabin crew member reported her to the authorities after seeing her reading the book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline on the outbound flight two weeks earlier.

Mrs Shaheen has asked the airline for an apology and an acknowledgment that its actions were “unacceptable”.

She says Thomson has ignored her requests and refused to apologise, so she is now taking legal action with the aim of obtaining a court declaration that she was discriminated against under the Equality Act.

Thomson says it has written to her explaining that crew members undergo regular security awareness training and are encouraged to share information with authorities.

A spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that in this instance Ms Shaheen may have felt that over-caution had been exercised, however like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution.”

Mrs Shaheen has now launched a crowdfunding campaign on the website CrowdJustice to raise funds for her legal action.

She said: “Being detained by the counter-terrorism police after my honeymoon because I was reading a book about art and culture was humiliating and all I want is an apology for being treated in this way.

“But what is truly important, and the reason why I’ve continued to fight for this apology is because I feel I need to stand up for all those people who may have faced discrimination at a time where racial, religious discrimination and hate crimes are on the rise.”

Ravi Naik of Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, which represents Mrs Shaheen, said: “She only wants an apology, to acknowledge that what happened to her was wrong. It is most regrettable that the airline have failed to provide any proper response to Ms Shaheen or to us.

“We had hoped that they would have taken the decent and simple step of apologising but instead, they are forcing Ms Shaheen to go to Court.

“We hope the court will do what the airline failed to and recognise that she was the victim of discrimination. Such discrimination must not be left to pass but rather is an affront to all our humanity.

“It is only by the bravery of Ms Shaheen sticking up for her principles that we continue with this fight. We hope that we are able to support her in this goal through this CrowdJustice campaign.”

Joanna Sidhu of CrowdJustice, a donation-based legal crowdfunding platform, said: “By fighting for a simple apology, Faizah is bravely speaking out on behalf of all those who may have suffered from racial or religious discrimination.

“Now, all those people for whom Faizah has stood up for have the opportunity to stand behind her by supporting her crowdfunding campaign.”

A Thomson spokeswoman said: “We’re really sorry if Ms Shaheen remains unhappy with how she feels she was treated. We wrote to her to explain that 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, who would then act as appropriate.

“We appreciate that in this instance Ms Shaheen may have felt that over caution had been exercised, however like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution.”

Details of the crowddfunding bid are available here.

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