Paul Gallagher Kate Ng, Independent, December 23, 2015
More than 20 British Muslim families have been denied entry to the US, it has been claimed, amid mounting claims of religious discrimination by border officials.
The allegation was made after a British father whose family holiday to Disneyland in the US was cancelled at the last minute by border officials spoke of their “devastation”.
Fitness instructor Mohammad Tariq Mahmood was among 11 members of his family hoping to fly from Gatwick to Los Angeles last week, but said they were taken from the queue to board the plane by a border control officer.
He said the official told them there was a problem and that the airport had received a phone call from Washington, banning Mr Mahmood and his party from getting on the plane. No reason was given.
Mr Mahmood, 41, was with his brother and their children, aged between eight and 19, when they told their visas had been revoked.
He told ITV News: “We were devastated. We’d planned this trip for two months, the kids were excited, and all of a sudden some person just comes and says, ‘You’re not allowed to board the plane’.” Mr Mahmood said nobody in his family had ever been arrested, involved in a terror organisation, or travelled to Syria.
The family’s MP, Stella Creasy, wrote to David Cameron asking him to intervene after she had hit a “brick wall” in trying to obtain information from US officials.
The issue has been thrust into the spotlight following US presidential contender Donald Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims visiting the US due to concerns about extremist attacks. Mr Cameron’s office said he would look into the matter. US officials have yet to comment on the incident.
Prominent London-based imam Ajmal Masroor told The Independent those affected were “very afraid they’ll never be able to visit America again” if they speak publicly about the issue.
“I don’t care–I’m not afraid to speak the truth,” he said.
“This worrying trend of racial profiling and poor immigration policy is out of control, and must be stopped. They have no right to racially profile anyone.”
The 44-year-old said that he received similar treatment when he had his US visa revoked on 17 December, just after checking in for a Virgin Atlantic flight at Heathrow Airport.
Mr Masroor said he had never had any problem travelling on that visa before. “I asked [the official] why repeatedly and he said, ‘You must have done something wrong,’ without any explanation. This is absolutely discrimination. It is not acceptable and playing into the hands of the terrorists.”
Mr Masroor said: “I’m aware of at least 20 other cases where families are afraid to even speak out.”
He added that the bans had been handed down for some time, but they appeared to have increased in number in recent weeks.