Three Indian-origin Muslim siblings, including two hijab-clad girls, have claimed that they were hauled off a plane at an airport in London and questioned on the tarmac by British policemen after a passenger accused them of being members of ISIS.
Sakina Dharas, 24, Maryam Dharas, 19, and Ali Dharas, 21, had boarded the easyJet flight from Stansted to the Italian city of Naples last week when they were approached by a cabin crew member and asked to accompany her off the aircraft without explanation, media reports said.
The trio, born and raised in London, were hauled off the plane and grilled for an hour by officers, who first asked them, “Do you speak English?”, according to Sakina, who narrated the ordeal writing in The Independent.
According to her, they were asked by one of the officers, “Right, we have to speak with you. A passenger on your flight has claimed that you three are members of ISIS.”
“They saw you with Arabic or praise be to Allah on your phone,” the officer was quoted as saying by Sakina.
In their reply, the siblings said, “Firstly, that’s part of the Quran, our religious text, so even if we did have it, it wouldn’t signify that we’re a part of ISIS at all.”
“Regardless, we’ve had nothing on our phone remotely Arabic related this morning. Also, we’re Indian by ethnicity, so we wouldn’t even have Arabic in conversation with anyone,” they told the officers, according to Sakina.
During their one-hour interrogation on the tarmac, Sakina said she was asked to explain the details of various entry stamps on her passport. She also showed an MI5 agent recent WhatsApp messages.
The siblings provided answers relating to their personal lives and were questioned on their home addresses, workplaces, social media history and parents’ professions, Sakina wrote in her post.
“The MI5 and police officers apologised for the ‘inconvenience’ and assure(d) us that, at a time where we are all ‘on edge’, they have to respond to threats such as these. Our accusers, we are told, were very ‘frightened’,” Sakina wrote. The incident took place on 17 August and the siblings returned from their holiday on 20 August.
A spokesman for easyJet said the three had been taken off the flight “following concerns raised by a passenger”.
“The police then confirmed to the captain that the passengers were cleared to complete their journey and they re-boarded the aircraft and the flight departed to Naples,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passengers,” he said.
Essex Police, in charge of Stansted Airport security, said, “Essex Police were contacted with reports of concern regarding the behaviour of three people who were looking at their mobile phones. Officers at the airport spoke to them and examined their phones with their consent.”
“They were quickly able to establish that no offences had been committed and the women boarded their flight. We are satisfied the call was of good intent,” it said.
(Feature image source: Twitter| Mustafa-al-Najafi)