Muslim NHS worker who read Syrian art book on flight detained by anti-terror police

Faizah Shaheen

A Muslim NHS worker who helps with the government’s de-radicalisation strategy was detained by police at Doncaster airport and questioned under terror laws after a cabin crew member spotted her reading a Syrian culture book on board a flight.

Faizah Shaheen, who’s from Leeds, assesses teenage mental health patients who may become radicalised. She was returning home from honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey, when she was stopped by South Yorkshire Police on July 25th.

The 27-year-old told The Independent newspaper that she was pulled over because a Thomson Airways cabin crew member on her outbound flight a fortnight earlier had reported her for suspicious behaviour.

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, said she was left angry and in tears by the experience – and with a feeling she had been discriminated because of her faith.

She said she now intends to make formal complaints against the police and Thomson Airways.

She told the Independent: “I was completely innocent – I was made to feel like a culprit… I was queuing at passport control and saw police staring at me. I just got through passport control and then two police officers approached me and took me aside and asked me to show my passport again.

“I asked what was going on and they said I had been reported due to a book I was reading and was to be questioned under the Terrorism Act.

“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.”

She added: “Ironically, a part of my job role is working on anti-radicalisation and assessing vulnerable young people with mental health problems are at risk of being radicalised.

“I said that to the police. I’m actually part of trying to fight radicalisation and breaking the stereotypes.

“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.”

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