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The US Stopped a British Muslim Family From Visiting Disneyland — With No Explanation

Accusations of Islamophobia have followed the news that US officials stopped a British Muslim family boarding a flight to California, where they planned to visit family and Disneyland.
December 23, 2015, 1:29pm
Photo via Flickr

A British family on their way to Disneyland were barred by US officials from boarding a plane at London's Gatwick airport and removed from the airport.

The news that the family of 11 was removed with no explanation and no refund for tickets costing more than $13,000 has sparked accusations of Islamophobia and calls for the UK prime minister to step in.

The group had been granted the travel authorization required for all British citizens to travel to the US ahead of a planned trip to visit family and theme parks in southern California.

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But while they were waiting in the departure lounge — and after they had checked in — US Department of Homeland Security officials told them they would not be allowed to travel, while providing no explanation as to why.

Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, one of the family members who was turned away, told the Guardian the reason it happened was "obvious." "It's because of the attacks on America — they think every Muslim poses a threat," he said.

Related: We're Stuck in a Dangerous and Vicious Cycle, Say Experts, as Islamophobia Soars in the UK

Mahmood was traveling with his brother and nine of their children, who he said had been counting down the days to the trip and were devastated.

The airline had told them that they would not be refunded the $13,340 cost of their flights, and they were also forced to return all the items they had bought at duty-free shops before being escorted from the airport.

"I have never been more embarrassed in my life," Mahmoud told the paper. "I work here, I have a business here. But we were alienated."

'Online and offline discussions reverberate with the growing fear that UK Muslims are being "trumped" — that widespread condemnation of Donald Trump's call for no Muslim to be allowed into America contrasts with what is going on in practice'

Mahmoud told the BBC he had accepted that being stopped and asked questions was a part of the flying experience for him as he has "a beard and sometimes wear[s] Islamic dress."

But "the fact that we were the only ones who were of Asian or Muslim appearance, it seemed embarrassing that only we were the only ones taken out of the queue," he said. "For the children to take this in is very difficult."

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Related: Britain Really, Really Hates Donald Trump

MP Stella Creasy, whose Walthamstow constituency the family lives in, said British Muslims being barred from the US for no reason was a "growing problem" and called on Prime Minister David Cameron to do something.

She said she was in contact with at least one other constituent who had a similar experience, and had hit a "brick wall" in her attempt to get answers from the US embassy in London.

"Online and offline discussions reverberate with the growing fear that UK Muslims are being 'trumped' — that widespread condemnation of Donald Trump's call for no Muslim to be allowed into America contrasts with what is going on in practice," Creasy wrote.

Brits needed to do more than just critique opinions such as Trump's, she said, as they were not just an issue in the US. "It's happening on British soil, at our airports and involving our citizens and challenging their sense of place in our society too," she said.

Photo via Flickr

Related: Donald Trump Just Called for a 'Complete Shutdown' on Muslims Entering the US