The couple were stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which they say disproportionately targets Muslims
A Muslim couple say they were among a number of innocent families who were subjected to ‘humiliating’ searches for five hours at Heathrow Airport upon their return from Hajj. According to Muhammed, 35, his wife was made to remove her hijab so she could be photographed by counter terrorism officers they were asked their opinions on Donald Trump and who they met in Saudi Arabia. Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Muhammed said he and his wife had taken a connecting flight from Saudi Arabia to Turkey, in order to return to the UK.
He said: ‘There were a number of families returning from Turkey, Muslim and non-Muslim, but when we got off the plane, counter terrorism officers approached me and my wife and asked us to follow them for questioning. ‘It was humiliating, we were taken aside in front of a number of people who we knew, but they didn’t care about any of that.’
The couple said they were looking forward to celebrating with their families after returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows individuals to be detained at the border for up to six hours if counter terrorism officers believe they could be engaged in terrorist activities. Those detained have no right to silence, have to surrender their phones, computers and passwords and provide fingerprints and DNA. Muhammad said that once separated from his wife at the airport, they were held for five hours, after which he learnt that his wife was told to remove her hijab so she could be photographed and both were asked to provide fingerprints. He added:
‘They started to question me about what I thought about Donald Trump, nothing about the UK’s political leaders, and then what I thought about the Manchester arena attacks.
‘They even asked, what do you hope to achieve now that you’re back from pilgrimage. Muhammed says he was among a number of families targeted upon their return (Picture: AFP) ‘It wasn’t nice at all, we’ve just returned from pilgrimage, we were in a good mood, my wife and I wanted to return home and celebrate with the family. ‘My relatives were made to wait outside for five hours, when we got home, my wife was really upset, all that good mood was totally gone’. Muhammed added that he felt the manner in which the schedule 7 powers were used to target not just him and his wife but also others was clearly ‘discriminatory’ and ‘Islamophobic’, and they were made to feel like criminals, despite having done nothing wrong and being released without charge. He added: ‘My wife was really scared, especially after being asked to remove her hijab for no reason, it’s a form of trauma.
‘They apologised in the end for any inconvenience, it was just ridiculous’. Bank holiday travel chaos as ‘mums with prams forced to walk down train tracks’ Human rights group Cage, which is supporting Muhammed, said it had made a complaint to the policing regulator about the use of schedule 7 and the manner in which
it was being used to disproportionately target Muslims. The organisation claims that its study of over 400,000 incidents of people being stopped at ports and airports, had found that the conviction rate was 0.007%. The group said it had also written to the all-party group on British Muslims to express its concerns with so-called schedule 7 stops. Cage international director Muhammad Rabbani, who claims to have been stopped over 20 times under schedule 7 said: ‘Within a day of launching our report, we received multiple reports of Muslim pilgrims being targeted on return from Hajj at Islam’s holiest sites.
Germany warns UK it ‘may stop sending food after no-deal Brexit’ ‘This is something we have documented for many years, and is the crudest manifestation of the Islamophobic nature of Schedule 7 powers. ‘Public bodies must uphold their duty to protect the rights of minorities, and it is why we are asking the APPG to urgently investigate this matter with the Home Office.’ A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The use of Schedule 7 is vital to the police in their work to combat terrorism and the authors of this report are clearly misrepresenting facts to fit their own pre-determined conclusions. ’In his 2014 report, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Anderson QC, found no evidence of the power being exercised in a racially discriminatory manner.
‘He also said that one would expect its exercise to be ethnically “proportionate” to the terrorist population that travels through UK ports. ‘Between January 2015 and June 2018, Schedule 7 examinations assisted in approximately 30% of cases where an individual was later charged under the Terrorism Act.’