Reading While Muslim

Faizah Shaheen was detained by officials in the U.K. after she was reported for having suspicious reading material on a flight to Turkey.

Petroa Giannakouris / AP

NEWS BRIEF A 27-year-old British-Muslim’s honeymoon ended in detention when officials at Doncaster Airport questioned her for suspicious reading material, the Independent reports. Her reading: an anthology of Syrian short stories, poems, and essays.

Faizah Shaheen, a National Health Services worker from Leeds who focuses on deterring young mental-health patients from radicalization, was returning home July 25 from her honeymoon in Marmaris, Turkey, when she was stopped by South Yorkshire Police. They questioned her for 15 minutes in connection with a book she’d been reading two weeks earlier on her flight to Turkey. A Thomson Airways worker reportedly alerted officials about the book, Malu Halasa’s Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline.

Shaheen said she intends to file formal complaints against Thomson Airways and the police, calling the experience “very hurtful.” She told the Independent:

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 do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn’t Muslim.

Under Schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act, British police in a port or border area are lawfully permitted to stop, question, and detain individuals without cause if they are suspected of involvement in criminal activity, including terrorism.

A Thomson Airways representative responded to the incident in a statement obtained by The Guardian, saying:

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 overcaution had been exercised. However, like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution

Zaher Omareen, the co-editor of the book, spoke out in Shaheen’s defense.

Judging individuals and even taking measures against them based on their race, their looks, their language, or the printed words they carry is unacceptable and unjustifiable,” she told The Guardian.

In April, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight, detained by officials at Los Angeles airport, and questioned by the FBI after another passenger reported him for making comments in Arabic while on a phone call that were “perceived to be threatening.” Makhzoomi, a Muslim of Iraqi descent, did not bring charges against the airline, though he did request a formal apology.

In May, Guido Menzio, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, was working on a differential equation while on an American Airlines flight. A fellow passenger mistook it for Arabic writing. He was questioned for possible ties to terrorism before being released.