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U.S. Passenger Held for 13 Hours at Heathrow: “Detained Because I’m Muslim”

An American Muslim at London Heathrow says she felt “judged” by immigration officials in wake of Paris terror attacks

An American Muslim flyer is speaking out about her experience at London Heathrow Airport (LHR), claiming she felt “judged” by border officials based solely on her faith. Speaking to BBC News, 18-year-old Ayan Mohamud claims she was held for 13 hours while officials interrogated her, solely because of her appearance.

The flyer departed her home in the United States to visit family in Leicester, a British city north of London. However, after her arrival at LHR, Mohamud claims she was immediately flagged by the Border Force and detained for over half of a day, as officials questioned the flyer and completed “background inquiries.”

“[It] hit me that I was being judged based on what I was wearing on my head,” Mohamud told BBC News. “I felt that I was detained because I’m Muslim.”

During her time in detention, a spokesperson for the British Home Office claims Mohamud was being investigated to make sure she could legally enter the United Kingdom. The alleged investigation was carried out after British Home Secretary Theresa May announced “intensified” security procedures after the targeted terrorist attack on Paris.

“To ensure the correct decisions are reached it is sometimes necessary for Border Force to detain passengers while checks are carried out to ensure they qualify for entry to the U.K.,” an unidentified spokesperson from the British Home office told BBC News. “The passenger was given leave to enter the U.K. as soon as officers were able to make further inquiries, including in the United States.”

However, both Mohamud and her family claim that the alleged 13-hour investigation was not necessary. The group is speaking out against their treatment, claiming the flyer was singled out and discriminated against because of her hijab.

“She didn’t commit any crime except being a Muslim girl with a headscarf,” Jawaahir Daahir, Mohamud’s aunt in Leicester, told BBC News. “People shouldn’t be discriminated against, Muslim or non-Muslim, they should be all checked.”

[Photo: BBC News]

Comments are Closed.
corbetti December 1, 2015

People who aren't discriminated against don't understand/can't empathize with people who are. JoeCool, i'm pretty certain you didn't detain your customer for 13 hours, so i don't see the relevance to your comment. cbn42, you nailed it.

drvannostren December 1, 2015

I'm not saying they don't on SOME level, but you think they'd keep someone 13 hours...for ABSOLUTELY no reason? 15 minutes sure. A previous poster mentioned he/she knew a muslim family that all got "randomly" selected. Sure, I get those instances. You have every right in those situations to feel singled out. It sucks, but such is life I'm afraid. Humans can't totally put aside perceptions, right or wrong. I've been stopped at my OWN border on more than one occasion. When the CBSA officer is of Indian decent I don't immediately assume I've been pulled over because I'm white and he's not. Of the people getting pulled over at the TJ/San Diego border, I'd venture to guess the majority are Mexican or Mexican/American. Is that racial profiling? Or is it just numbers? Again, I'll say that I sympathize with her plight I just don't think anyone would be detained for 13 hours based solely on a headscarf, that doesn't make any sense, nor would it make any sense when that agent's boss comes and asks them why the person was detained. What I'd like to know is how people think this should be solved? CBN42, if a black guy driving gets pulled over by a black cop...then what? If this british security person had been muslim, then what? I've been pulled over by white border guards...again, what's my complaint? That I'm young? That my passport is full of Colombian stamps? Would it help if one of every 4 white people got pulled over? Does that make it any better? I'm happy to volunteer next time I'm at the airport if it keeps up appearances and makes anyone feel better. We all KNOW it's not truly random, but that goes for everyone and the situation is different in different places. The only other thing I can offer, is if I travelled to a largely muslim country and got stopped, I wouldn't be bothered, because I know I'm not doing anything wrong. If I got pulled aside for 13 hours, of course I would demand to know why. Which is why I can sympathize with the situation. In fact I'm prepping for a POTENTIAL issue, my Russian visa has a small typo, honestly if they held me for 1-2 hours and said "sir it was because your name has an inconsistency". I'll be a bit mad, but I get it. National security, regardless of nation, is paramount.

AlwaysFlyStar December 1, 2015

I might feel differently if it were a different country, but this is the UK. If you are going to the UK and don't have a hotel reservation, there is a decent chance you will be held up. I actually had some Kiwi friends coming to visit me that were denied entry and sent back to Italy because they were planning to stay with me, but didn't have my address. This girl was staying with family, didn't have a hotel. If she was missing any details about where she was staying/who with, it is fairly standard for them to take her for questioning, and it is fairly standard for it to take a while, because, well, it's Heathrow.

Gringa December 1, 2015

I've been pulled aside for extra screening several times going to London while Middle Eastern men sailed through & I'm a white female.

AAJetMan December 1, 2015

It's truly shameful that every Muslim woman is treated this way.