LONDON, Oct 11 (APP)- Hundreds of British Muslims leaving and returning from holidays abroad face harassment and intimidation by security forces when they pass through UK airports and seaports, says a report in ‘The Independent’.One man interrogated by police over his British credentials was asked whether he watched Dad’s Army, while another was questioned over the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.New figures, according to the paper, show that the number of innocent people stopped and questioned at airports and other points of entry to the United Kingdom (UK) has doubled in the last four years, raising serious concerns about racial profiling. Many British Muslims have cancelled future vacations rather than risk being questioned and held for up to nine hours by anti-terrorist officers.
Senior Muslim police officers are also understood to be concerned about the overuse of the special powers granted under the Terrorism Act 2000. The frequent searches at ports and borders have been criticised by Lord Carlile QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who argues that the number of cases can be “reduced in number without risk to national security”.Earlier this year Home Secretary Theresa May scaled back section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which gives police officers the power to stop and search members of the public without any reasonable suspicion. But under Schedule 7 of the same legislation, police officers have greater powers to stop and detain travellers leaving and entering Britain, including taking samples of their DNA.
Figures obtained by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number of people stopped and questioned has risen from 1,190 in 2004 to 2,473 in 2008. The most recent numbers of Schedule 7 cases of stopping, questioning and searching last year show that, between January and September, police and Special Branch officers carried out 1,773 operations.
In the last five years 1,110 people were held and questioned by the police for up to nine hours. And despite a total of 10,400 “stops” carried out over the same period, only 99 people have been arrested. Of these, 48 were charged with terrorist or terrorist-related offences.
Mohamed Nur, 26, was stopped at Heathrow airport in June after returning from a holiday in Dubai. He was held for nine hours and forced to give DNA samples and fingerprints. During the questioning, one of the police officers asked about his British credentials. “He asked me ‘Do you consider yourself to be English?’ I said I consider myself to be British, rather than just English,” Mr Nur said.
Asif Ahmed, 28, a property developer from Renfrew in Scotland, was stopped at Edinburgh airport as he returned from Stansted airport with his wife. The couple were collecting their bags when two plain-clothed officers approached them. They were taken to an interrogation room, separated and questioned for more than an hour. During the questioning Mr Ahmed claimed: “I was asked if I knew where [Osama] bin Laden was.”
In another instance Adil Hussain, was detained and quizzed on beliefs for six hours. The PhD computer student at Imperial College London was stopped by police at Dover in April this year at the start of his walking holiday in the Alps.
Although Mr Hussain and his companions protested that they were simply spending the weekend on a short break, anti-terrorist officers told them that some of the terrorists who attacked Britain were also well educated and enjoyed hill walking.
They were held for six hours, during which time they were searched and had their phones confiscated. At first the group believed their detention would last no longer than a few minutes.
For the next six hours the men were separately interrogated about their interest in Islam, their friends in the UK and their views on British and American troops in Afghanistan. Finally they were released, but all their electronic equipment were confiscated – App