Muslim health worker stopped at airport for reading book on Syria

Faizah Shaheen was told she was being interrogated because she was reading the book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline

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Police at a British airport questioned a Muslim woman after she was spotted reading an award winning book on Syrian culture, UK news website The Independent reported.

Faizah Shaheen, who is employed by the UK’s National Health Service to work with teenagers with mental health problems, was stopped at Doncaster airport and questioned for 15 minutes by the South Yorkshire Police under the Terrorism Act, the report added.

She was traveling back from honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey when concerned cabin crew on her flight reported her to UK security for ‘suspicious behavior’.

The 27-year-old was told she was being interrogated because she was reading the book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. Shaheen assists teenagers with mental health patients and prevents them from joining extremist groups in her job.

She told The Independent she was “completely innocent”, but that the police pulled her to one side after passport control to question her.

“I asked what was going on,” she said, “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.”

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

British lawmaker, Labour MP Keith Vaz told The Independent the cabin crew had overreacted when they reported her.

“In the current climate people are worried. But there is always a balance to be struck in circumstances of this kind. We want the public to report suspicious activity,” he said.

"Reasonable people would not regard reading a book on Syria on its own, without any other concerns, as warranting the questioning of an individual.”

He said the airline Thomson Airways should now accept a mistake was made and apologize.

Thomson Airways said in a statement: “Our crew undergo general safety and security awareness training on a regular basis. As part of this they are encouraged to be vigilant and share any information or questions with the relevant authorities.

“We appreciate that in this instance Ms Shaheen may have felt that over caution had been exercised. However, like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution. “

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