British police question bride for reading Syrian art-and-culture book
A Muslim woman was held at Doncaster airport and questioned by police under Britain's anti-terror laws for reading a Syrian culture book on board her honeymoon flight, the Independent newspaper reported on Thursday.
Faizah Shaheen, who works with the NHS to prevent young mental health patients from becoming radicalised, was on her return flight from Marmaris, Turkey, when a cabin crew member spotted her with the book and reported her to police over suspicious behaviour.
The 27-year-old was informed by police that suspicions were related to the book she was reading, Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.
The Muslim newlywed woman was questioned for 15 minutes under Schedule 7 of Britain's Terrorism Act for reading a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs and cartoons gathered in the award-winning book.
"I was queuing at passport control and saw police staring at me," she told The Independent.
"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 was completely innocent – I was made to feel like a culprit," she added.
The mental health worker said she notified the officers of her profession durng the ordeal.
“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."
Shaheen said she will file a formal complaint against the police as well as Thomson Airways.
Jo Glanville, director of English PEN – which supported the book’s publication with a grant towards translation – later told The Guardian that Thomson Airways should be “highly embarrassed about this gross act of misjudgment”.
“The current culture of anxiety around extremism now means that even our reading material has become grounds for suspicion of terrorist activity,” she said. “The freedom to read any book, no matter the subject, is a fundamental cornerstone of our liberty.” Glanville also called Schedule 7 a “continuing problem” and said it was overdue for reform.
Zaher Omareen, the co-editor of Syria Speaks, condemned Shaheen’s detention as a “despicable incident”.