UK Muslim doctor singled out at airport amid rising Islamophobia
Pakistani British surgeon and president of the British Hernia Society, Dr. Aali Sheen, claimed he was the victim of "racial triaging" at Manchester Airport security as a recent study revealed that Islamophobia is on the rise in the country.
Sheen said he was exposed to racism when security at Manchester Airport told him to queue for a full-body scanner, while white passengers were ushered in another direction. The surgeon, who was traveling with his two children, added that he soon saw a Muslim family also being singled out from other passengers to be scanned.
Sheen told Manchester Evening News about his encounter with a security guard at Manchester Airport before flying to Grenoble, France on April 3 this year, according to Turkish daily Yeni Şafak.
The leading surgeon said he queued for two hours before reaching security for his 8 a.m. flight, noting that a security guard pointed toward a queue at the scanner even though the smaller arch metal detector was on and usable.
Recounting the incident, Sheen explained: "I said, 'Why?' He said because they have a system. What kind of system is this, I asked him. I challenged him. I knew the reason. To me it was clear. He said 'do as you are told.' He was really rude to me and I said 'don't talk to me like that.' I told him he had to give me a reason."
"Then I packed my bags and looked behind me and saw a distinctly Muslim family, and they were all going through the same scanner as me. They were being directed there by the same person. Other white people were passing through another scanner," he continued.
Sheen made a formal complaint when he landed at his destination but the airport only responded after his local member of parliament got involved.
'Expect attack at any time'
Meanwhile, a new study by the Muslim Engagement and Development group (MEND) of more than 100 British mosques found that 35% of Islamic centers faced at least one anti-Muslim attack every year.
MEND regional manager, Nayeem Haque, told Sky News that the figures were “indicative of a wider trend of Islamophobia,” in Britain.
“We believe the Islamophobic narrative being peddled in wider society is to blame for the rise in attacks we’ve seen in the Muslim community,” he said.
Haque pointed out that there was now more anxiety among Muslims about visiting a place of worship, which corresponds to what was said by Mohammed Kozbar, chairperson of Finsbury Park Mosque – the mosque that suffered a fatal terrorist attack five years ago.
“Our community still feels the fear and intimidation, and they expect an attack at any time. What happened was not a one-off. The situation is even worse than it was five years ago. Islamophobia is on the rise, and no one can deny that,” Kozbar cautioned.
The comments are backed up by recent government data for England and Wales showing that religiously aggravated offenses are at an all-time high, according to Bloomberg citing a Press Association report using data from the British Home Office. A total of 76,884 racially and religiously aggravated offenses were recorded in 2021, up 15% from 66,742 in 2020, putting it at an all-time high.
The hate crime offenses include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment and criminal damage.
Although the government took steps with the "Places of Worship Protective Security Scheme" aimed at supporting places of worship at risk of attacks and hate crimes, the MEND report found that only 33% of mosques in England and Wales that applied for the scheme were provided funding, leaving the remaining 66% exposed. Haque believes that a streamlined process to access funding for mosques needing security is required.
However, Haque said the attacks will not discourage people from their faith. “But overwhelmingly our community is resilient, and we want to show this message of resilience and that this won’t impact our faith,” he said.