Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Outcry After US Blocks British Muslim Family from Disneyland Vacation
Prime Minister David Cameron called to act amid apparent US security crackdown
On December 17, a British Muslim family of 11 was barred without explanation from traveling to Los Angeles, where they planned to visit Disneyland. (Photo: Getty)
British Muslims—including a family of 11 headed to Disneyland—are increasingly being barred from the U.S. without explanation, according to critics in the UK, who are calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to step in and address the problem.
Despite the family having been granted travel authorization online ahead of their planned December 15 flight to Los Angeles, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security refused to allow them to board the plane at London's Gatwick Airport. No one has told them why they were prevented from traveling.
But Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, one of the family members, told the Guardian that the reason was "obvious."
"It's because of the attacks on America," he said. "They think every Muslim poses a threat."
Mahmood's comments echo those of prominent British imam Ajmal Masroor, who reportedly had his U.S. visa revoked on December 17 just after checking in for a Virgin Atlantic flight at Heathrow Airport.
In a Facebook post, Masroor said he had been made aware of at least 10 other similar cases, but that those affected were "very afraid they'll never be able to visit America again" if they speak publicly about the issue.
He said he believed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's anti-Muslim statements were poisoning the U.S.'s approach to followers of the religion. "Trump's rhetoric is dangerous," Masroor wrote, "and is influencing foreign affairs between the U.S. and other countries."
"If America is going to develop zero Muslim tolerance, it's a very worrying disposition," Masroor continued. "Muslims are not responsible for all the atrocities in the world. I would tell Barack Obama, if he were here, that it's about being fair."
For Mahmood, whose family was denied their trip to Disneyland, fairness—or the lack thereof—was also in question.
According to the Guardian:
He said the children had been counting down the days to the trip for months, and were devastated not to be able to visit their cousins as planned.
He said that the airline told them that they would not be refunded the $13,340 cost of their flights. They were also forced to return everything they bought at the airport’s duty-free shops before being escorted from the airport.
“I have never been more embarrassed in my life. I work here, I have a business here. But we were alienated,” Mahmood said.
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who said she "hit a brick wall" while making inquiries on behalf of Mahmood and his family, has written to Cameron calling on him to challenge the U.S. on its "secretive security policies."
Not to do so, she warned, could have grave consequences in British society.
"It is not just the family themselves who are livid," she wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday. "The vacuum created by a refusal to provide any context for these decisions is fueling resentment and debate. Online and offline discussions reverberate with the growing fear that UK Muslims are being 'trumped'—that widespread condemnation of Donald Trump's call for no Muslim to be allowed into America contrasts with what is going on in practice."
"Faced with such claims, our concern should be to offer more than a critique of American Republican primary political positioning," she said. "Because this isn't happening in the US. It's happening on British soil, at our airports and involving our citizens and challenging their sense of place in our society too."
She argued: "
If the embassy won't answer to the family's MP, it should answer to their prime minister
and he to us about what he is doing to ensure that no British citizen is being discriminated against for their faith on our shores."
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