Katie Hopkins’ hatred for Islam and Muslims is well-known, but her latest column in response to a Muslim family from Walthamstow who were stopped from entering the US was beyond a joke, writes Dilly Hussain.
On the 15th December 2015, a Muslim family of eleven, including four young children were refused permission to board a flight from Gatwick Airport to Los Angeles because a US official objected to their travel to their country.
Mohammed Tariq Mahmood, from Walthamstow, London, and nine members of his family and two other children checked in to travel from London to Los Angeles via Norwegian Airlines. Prior to arriving at the airport the family had obtained travel authorisation under the Visa Waiver programme, which they say was approved a month before they were due to travel to visit Mr Mahmood’s brother. However, they were denied permission to board the plane at the boarding gate without any explanation, except that an official in the US had objected to their travel.
Travelling whilst Muslim
The scenario falls in line with the “authority to carry scheme”, which was documented in the government’s latest Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The scheme details that security officials can specify “classes of passengers” for whom travel can be denied without an explanation, including “groups of passengers defined by nationality”, something the Home Office, on its website describes, will be undertaken “when necessary in the public interest”.
However, speaking to the BBC, Mr Mahmood said that he did not understand why he and his family were being treated as if they were extremists and made it clear that he had educated his children “to live in this country peacefully”. This led to the conclusion by Mr Mahmood that he and his family were targeted because “we are Muslims”.
A few days later, after being made aware of the incident involving one of her constituents, Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, wrote a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron questioning why the family were denied entry to the US.
She demanded answers as to why Muslims were being disproportionately targeted by security services at airports, which she highlighted was fuelling resentment and alienation amongst Muslim communities in Britain.
Katie Hopkins and the Daily Mail
The following day, the Daily Mail alleged that the family had links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, leading to one of their regular columnists, Katie Hopkins, authoring an article that many have regarded as one of the most racist and Islamophobic articles to have ever been published by the newspaper.
Ms Hopkins made a number of insinuations that led to her concluding that the family, based on their religious beliefs and ethnicity were “extremists” and that the US security services were right to deny them entry to their country.
Firstly, Ms Hopkins tried to justify the actions of the US official using racial profiling by stating that the Muslim family were “rightly” barred from travelling to the US because they were “all called Mahmood”. For the audience’s benefit, Mahmood is a name predominantly given to Pakistanis and Indians, and has no bearing on a person’s religious faith. Therefore, Ms Hopkins suggested that racially profiling families at airports is justified because people with Asian sounding names are a threat to the national security of countries around the world.
Secondly, Ms Hopkins went on to question why a Muslim family of “two brothers and nine children” were travelling to the US “on their own”. Would this point have been brought up if the family had been Christian or Jewish? Or had both brothers been a white gay couple who took their nieces and nephews on a once in a lifetime trip to Disneyland, would Ms Hopkins have brought this point up? The answer is obviously no, because thousands, if not millions, of men travel with children across the world every year, yet they are never asked to justify their actions.
However, as the family were Pakistani Ms Hopkins believed it was reasonable to attack them based on their racial background. Is it really a crime for two Muslim men to travel abroad with children without their wives?
According to Ms Hopkins, the simple answer is yes. Based on her preconceived Islamophobic misconceptions, Ms Hopkins thinks the wives of both Mr Mahmood and his brother were not allowed to travel because their religious faith ordered them to leave their wives behind while they went on a “trip of a lifetime”.
This is despite Mr Mahmood having publicly told the BBC that a last minute decision was made for neither his wife nor his brother’s wife to fly out with them because one of their children was taken ill.
But the question should be asked, even if both wives did not travel without any reason being given, why is this argument brought up and why should it be justified by the family?
“Spot the terrorist”
Thirdly, Ms Hopkins then makes her Islamophobic sentiments even clearer, when she points out that whenever she travels she plays her “usual game of ‘spot the terrorist’ at the airport, (beard: 5 points; rucksack: 10 points; sandals: 5 points)”, and tries to justify her Islamophobic prejudices by suggesting “you’ve all done it”. Her views clearly incite hatred against Muslims and she could be accused of encouraging community tension in Britain when she suggests all non-Muslims share her bigoted racist ideology.
Fourthly, desperate to find any link to justify her Islamophobic sentiments and support what she thinks was a justified reaction by an official in the US, Ms Hopkins makes a wild and quite frankly a laughable connection when she links well known controversial cleric Anjem Choudary with Mr Mahmood. She infers that as Mr Choudary once lived in Waltham Forest, an area she regards as a “hotbed of extremism”, without any evidence to substantiate this claim, Mr Mahmood is therefore automatically an extremist because he too lives in the same area. That is no different to saying all 40 something white women living in the UK are bigoted racist and Islamophobic foul-mouthed bullies, who share views with the KKK and the EDL because they share an island with a bully such as Katie Hopkins.
In fact, social services may want to look into the bullying suffered by Ms Hopkins children, who earlier this year were found to suffer abuse due to the irresponsible actions of their mother. Maybe a Prevent officer could interview her children to determine whether her actions are having a negative impact on her children?
Fifthly, Ms Hopkins claims that Mr Mahmood’s brother was detained at Tel Aviv airport, eight years ago. However, no reason is given for why he was ejected from Israel. Is that enough of an absurd reason to justify that a whole family should not be allowed to travel to the US? According to Ms Hopkins, it is and she revels in such news with a sarcastic swipe at the family. However, a number of comments by Daily Mail users defended Mr Mahmood’s brother who all claimed that being “white, British and non-Muslim”, they were also ejected from Israel at Tel Aviv airport without being given a reason.
“Links to Al Qaeda”
Finally, the Daily Mail then makes another wild accusation against the Mahmood family, which is then used by Ms Hopkins to accuse them of “having links to radical Islamists” and being terrorist sympathisers. Ms Hopkins claims that “if it wasn’t enough that two Muslim men from an extremist area of England, plus their nine children were flying together without any women, to set off alarm bells there’s the fact that they have confirmed links with Al Qaeda”.
So where did these “terrorism” links come from? The newspaper claims that “intelligence” received from a Facebook page connected to the family address, contained “extremist material sympathising with Al-Qaeda”. So what is this “extremist material” that the Daily Mail refers to? It was found on the Facebook profile of a Hamza Hussain, the name of Mr Mahmood’s 18-year-old son. The profile reportedly listed its job title as a “supervisor at Taliban and Leader at al-Qaeda”. Mr Mahmood denied that the social media page belonged to his son.
However, even if his son was responsible for naively listing that as his “job title”, is it enough to state that an individual or family have links to terrorist organisations? Quite frankly, such a connection is absurd and a quick look on Facebook of a host of teenagers would quickly reveal that many non-Muslims share similar job titles, as a way to mock such groups and their perceptions in society.
Furthermore, if any of the family members had any sympathy or links to terrorist organisations, would they seriously proclaim it to the world, very well knowing the implications of such actions? Even based on the view of the Home Office, extremist ideology and radicalisation occurs in secrecy, so to suggest the family made any “terrorist sympathies” public flies in the face of academic research and what they claim.
Despite ruining a trip of a lifetime for a family of twelve, the incident at the very least has exposed one of a long list of problems with the government’s Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. Amid long standing news that Muslims and Asians are frequently racially profiled at airports and stopped and searched disproportionately compared with their white non-Muslim counterparts, Durham University recently found that the integration of Muslims in British society was being undermined. More specifically, Asian immigrants and Muslims felt like a “suspect community” with an expectation that they would be disproportionately subject to stops and questioning while travelling.