British Muslim woman detained under Terrorism Act for reading Syrian art book on plane


Faizah Shaheen had just come through passport control on her way back from Turkey, where she'd spent two weeks on her honeymoon, when two police officers approached her.

The officers asked to see her passport again, and informed her that she'd been reported for reading a suspicious book and was to be questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. The book she was reading, on her flight out two weeks previous, was Syria Speaks: Art And Culture From The Frontline.

Shaheen told the Independent: "I became very angry and upset. I couldn't understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this. I told the police that I didn't think it was right or acceptable."

The 27-year-old, from Leeds, works as a child and adolescent mental health services practitioner for the NHS, where part of her job is to assess vulnerable young people at risk of becoming radicalised.

"I said that to the police. I'm actually part of trying to fight radicalisation and breaking the stereotypes," she said. "It was a very hurtful experience to go through, I fight for different causes and then to be victimised and experience this first-hand made me realise how bad it is."

Shaheen says she feels like she was discriminated against because of her faith.

"I do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn't Muslim."

The book, which was reported by Thomson Airways cabin crew, is an award-winning collection of essays, short stories, cartoons, poems, photographs and songs by Malu Halasa.

Thomson said in a statement: "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 over-caution had been exercised. However, like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution."