British Muslim family stopped from boarding plane to Disneyland
A British Muslim family's plans for a Disneyland holiday were ruined when US security wouldn't let them on the flight.
The 11 family members - two adults, nine children - were authorised to travel to the US ahead of their flight to California on Dec 15, but were not allowed to get on the plane by US officials at London's Gatwick airport, The Guardian reported. It identified one family member as Mohammad Tariq Mahmood.
Mahmood, a gym owner who was born in Pakistan, told Metro UK that he was approached by a British border control agent just moments before boarding. The agent said he had gotten a call from US officials in Washington DC, barring Mahmood from boarding the flights.
"He wouldn't tell me anything more," Mahmood told Metro UK. "I felt humiliated and my kids were tearful they were so upset. I'd never experienced anything like that."
"We were the only family that was of Asian, Muslim, sort of appearance, and it seemed a little bit embarrassing that only we were taken out (of the line to board)," Mahmood told the BBC.
US Customs and Border Protection issued a statement following an inquiry into Mahmood's case. While the agency didn't address his family's situation directly, it said would-be visitors to the US can be prevented from entering the country based on more than 60 grounds of inadmissibility, including health-related issues, criminal backgrounds, immigration violations or security concerns.
"The religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs of an international traveller are not determining factors about his/her admissibility into the US," the CBP statement read.
The incident comes a few weeks after Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for Muslims to be banned temporarily from entering the United States, a comment prompted by the San Bernardino shootings by two radicalised Muslims that left 14 people dead.
Trump's proposed ban drew fierce criticism in Britain, including from Prime Minister David Cameron, who called Trump's remarks "stupid, divisive and wrong."
The family's case has been taken up by their local politician, Stella Creasy. She subsequently wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian that "instead of heading to Universal Studios for two weeks of fun, (family members) were told to go home and unpack."
"This is more than a sad consumer affairs story about missed gate numbers or paperwork problems.," the opposition Labour Party politician wrote. "The official who stopped them was from the US Department of Homeland Security - and in the ensuing furor, other local residents have come forward to say that they, too, have been summarily refused entry to America."
The family saved for months for the two-week trip to California and will not have the £9000 (NZ$19,697) they spent on flights refunded to them, according to Creasy.
Creasy said that she has asked Cameron to look into the matter.
Last week, another British Muslim traveller, Ajmal Masroor, was turned away at the gate without explanation as he tried to board a flight to New York.
Masroor, an imam, detailed the experience in a Facebook post. "(The US) has the right to issue and revoke visa - I fully understand that," he wrote. "However not forwarding any reasons infuriates ordinary people. It does not win the hearts and minds of people, it turns them off. I am amazed how irrational these processes are but does USA care about what you and I think? I don't think so!"