A Muslim woman from Leeds was detained at a Yorkshire airport and questioned under terror laws after she was spotted reading a Syrian culture book, it has been reported.
NHS worker Faizah Shaheen, who helps prevent teenage mental health patients from becoming radicalised, was returning from her honeymoon in Turkey when she was stopped by South Yorkshire Police at Doncaster Airport on 25 July.
The 27-year-old was pulled over because a Thomson Airways cabin crew member on her outbound flight a fortnight earlier had reported her for suspicious behaviour.
Today news website The Independent reported that police officers questioned her 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.
The award-winning book by Malu Halasa is a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons and photographs from Syrian authors and artists.
Ms Shaheen was left in tears by the experience – and with a feeling she had been discriminated because of her faith.
I couldn’t understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this.Faizah Shaheen
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,” she said.
Recalling the moment police told her she was to questioned under the Terrorism Act, she said: “I became very angry and upset. I couldn’t understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this. I told the police that I didn’t think it was right or acceptable”
“It was a very hurtful experience to go through, I fight for different causes and then to be victimised and experience this first-hand and made me realise how bad it is.
“Instead of reminiscing about our honeymoon I am left talking about this experience.
“I do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn’t Muslim.”
Thomson Airways said its crew are compelled to report any concerns as a precaution, but it understood Ms Shaheen’s frustration.
A spokesman said in a statement: “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.
“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.“
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: “On 25 July, 2016, officers from South Yorkshire Police stopped and examined a woman under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at Doncaster Airport.
“She was not arrested, she was held for 15 minutes and was subsequently released.”