Apr 3 2015
“I never fully believed that Muslims in Britain were being victimized, but then I was stopped at Heathrow.”
Independent I’ve always been aware of the injustices British Muslims face, but I’ve sometimes doubted the narrative of the “Muslim victim”. (Injustices? You get unlimited welfare, free housing, special accommodation for your excessive religious demands, and you still think you’re a victim? You’re an ungrateful parasite on society)
Why is it such a big deal if you’re singled-out every now and then because of your appearance? If you have nothing to hide, there should be no problem – just cooperate, surely? Security officers would never apply a blanket stop and search; they only stop potential criminals with good reason, right? (All Muslims should be subjected to stop and search wherever they go)
Wrong. Just over a month ago, I was about to arrive at border control at London Heathrow, having flown in from Dubai. Suddenly, I was pulled aside and told to hand over my passport. I smiled at the officer as she scrutinised what I was wearing from my headscarf to my sandals. She didn’t smile back.
I gave her my passport, naïvely expecting a normal conversation about what I had been up to during my travels. Instead I was greeted with a look that I can only describe as being full of contempt. (Oh, noes, a ‘look,’ however will you survive?)
She began by asking general questions such as “why are you alone?”. I happily answered as fully as I could. She then began to unpick anything that I said with suspicion. She found it difficult to believe that I had paid for my own ticket and I had to explain how a mere Muslim girl could afford a trip to the Middle East. (Considering that more than 70% of Muslim women in the UK have never worked a day in their lives, this is a legitimate question)
She made me feel intimidated by directing me closer to the wall – perhaps to stop the possibility of me getting away – by which time I began to cry (Awwwww). Ignoring my tears, she continued to make me feel like a criminal (good), without knowing anything about me (Your headbag told her everything she had to know about you). It took a long time before she seemed to accept that it’s possible for an unmarried young Muslim woman to travel alone without the lure of a male jihadist.
My sensibilities were so wounded by this incident (Awwww). I had no problem with being questioned by airport security (Yes, you did, obviously), but what troubled me was the way the situation was handled. To label someone as guilty until innocent is problematic, but what made the situation worse is that even once she established that I wasn’t an extremist, I was still treated with doubt. (Get used to it, most sane Brits suspect all Muslims)
This may seem minor, especially if you compare it to other instances of discrimination in the UK (everything that is un-Islamic you perceive as discrimination). But these small, everyday moments have a cumulative effect, and increasingly undermine the relationship between British Muslims and their home country. (Your home is one of 56 Muslim countries, the UK isn’t one one of them. YET)
I’m completely aware that our authorities have to take certain measures to protect us (No, they are protecting British citizens from YOU). But it’s crucial that we draw a line between national security and what can be considered to be the marginalization of an already marginalized group. (Marginalized? Hey, cupcake, did you know that plane you came in on from Dubai goes both ways?)
After the incident with the security officer, I made my way to border control. I was referred to a manager, mainly because I could not stop crying. He was kind and very apologetic, but he justified it as a necessary part of the airport’s security measures. He assumed that the reason I was stopped was because I am a “young Muslim girl”, and therefore a potential “jihadi bride”. (Or a potential suicide bomber)
Indeed, I am young and I was wearing a headbag. However, if we were to substitute the word “Muslim” for another minority group, would that be ok? Would anyone ever say: “You were stopped because you’re a young Jewish girl, so we couldn’t take any risks”? (Of course not. Muslims are the threat, NOT Jews)
It’s so disheartening when the people who are supposed to be protecting you treat you like a criminal (No one is forcing you to stay there). To tackle everyday Islamophobia, we must firstly acknowledge its existence. And once we’ve done this, we can finally start to repair the values of tolerance and diversity that Britain is supposed to be built on. (Tolerance and diversity: neither of which are found anywhere in Islam)