Image via Vancouver Police Department
A British family on vacation in Vancouver were mistaken for potential terrorists by social media and local police last week when pictures were published of them photographing the inside of a shopping mall.
Mohammed Kareem and Salahuddin Sharaz were taking pictures inside Pacific Centre Mall last Tuesday when security cam photos of them were leaked by Vancity Buzz, later validated by the Vancouver Police Department as part of an investigation into a "suspicious incident."
Shortly after the official press release, their images were circulated widely on social media and media websites, with much speculation around whether the men were potential terrorists.
Not long after, the two men and one of their fathers came forward to dispel rumors—noting that both Kareem and Sharaz have visual impairments and that they were taking photos in order to see the mall better.
"These guys can't even see! And you expect them to be pulling off something big," Mohammed Sharaz, the father of one of the men, told the CBC.
"Because of this terrorist issue, [people say] 'they got a beard,' that's why they think we're terrorists," said Kareem. "But not everyone is the same, which we need to say. We are not Middle-Eastern, we are Briton."
The father adds that, unlike most people, the two men have to take pictures of just about everything to see things clearly and that's not unusual for them to take photos or video of events, only to rewatch them on their phones.
"My friend, when he looks at anything head on, he doesn't see like me and you do. So he'll take a picture or a movie, and then later on when he gets back, he zooms into it, and he watches stuff," said Sharaz. "He takes pictures of anything and everything."
According to Sharaz, the trio was only in Vancouver to receive treatment for the men's disease—retinitis pigmentosa—at a local wellness clinic and spent $6,000 on the trip in total.
Despite an apology from the police and the mayor of Vancouver himself, Sharaz worries that the family will be harassed due to their photos still existing on the web. He is also concerned about flying to and from the UK now, noting that he has asked the police to accompany him to the airport in order to ensure there are no errors when he and his family try to board their return flight home.
It's not an unsurprising request considering Canada's recent track record of absurd "flight risks."
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