Female Officer claiming she was Muslim stopped a Female Muslim Convert and mocked Islam by saying people follow Prophet ‘Ali Baba’. This is Ayesha’s first hand experience at being stopped under Schedule 7.
I am a 23 years old white British Muslim. I am studying and working in Manchester. I was first stopped in London on the way to Cyprus via Istanbul. I was going to Cyprus to see a Sufi Sheikh.
I went in to the airport and checked in. I travel all over the world and used to pass through security in ten minutes. This time, I was wearing hijab covering my neck with a green turban, so I was easily identified as Muslim.
I went to the hand-baggage security and put my bag down. They put it through the scanner a couple times. When I asked what was wrong, the officer said they had seen something suspicious, and it was something to do with a tablet.
It was a small tablet, a Microsoft brand, that I travel with. If I lose it, it does not matter because it is so cheap. They checked it and proceeded to go through all my stuff, completely ransacking my bag. They said it was fine, and I packed it all back up again.
“You could be an ISIS bride”
Once I packed up my bag, I then got approached by two police officers, a British Muslim male and white British woman.
I was a bit irritated at that point, because this never happens to me. When they asked me where I was going, I suppose I responded in an irritated way. Big mistake and major life lesson.
Rule Number 1: Anger/Irritation is forbidden.
The Muslim male then stamped his authority on me, and I realised I just had to comply or else I wouldn’t get on the flight. He said to me: “You could be an ISIS bride.”
He then said he was a Muslim, and went on a whole rant about terrorism, saying all these awful things. I said: “I really don’t understand why you are talking about this, as this is so foreign to me.”
He commented about my green turban, and said “I’m glad you’re wearing that as you seem to be a Sufi”. I said to myself: “Thank you very much, I’m glad you think I’m okay as a person.” I stayed calm and polite, trying my best not to let it show that they were bothering me. He made me show him my return flight and they let me go and get on the plane to Istanbul.
In Istanbul there were no issues, a few people looked twice as I was white and Muslim, but nothing happened at the transit, and nothing in Cyprus.
When I arrived back at Manchester, I got off the plane and refreshed my ablution. As I approached the passport control, my passport would not scan to allow me to go through the gates.
A worker directed me to a desk and two police officers were waiting for me. They were both in plain clothes but with badges. I knew they were there specifically for me and that I had been set up.
The female officer mocked Islam
I’ve never been good with most authority as I find people use it for oppression rather than support and justice, and at that point when they stopped me, I felt outraged internally. People go round with this law-and-order attitude just to flex their power rather than stand for justice. I made a mental note I refer to in rule number 1.
The female officer started asking me all these questions: “Who were you seeing? Where have you been?” I showed her a picture of my Sheikh and she said “We’re going to have to ask you some more questions”.
We got to the interrogation room, and she asked me if I wanted to pray. She was being really nice…too nice. It was sickening because I could tell she was manipulating me and not genuinely concerned about me.
The first thing they said to me was that I had to answer all their questions, or they would arrest me and take me to prison. I got very concerned at that point, and the questions they asked were so personal. They asked me how much I had in my bank account, for example.
Before I left England to travel, I had left my job and I had left my place, so when they asked me about these things, and I said I did not know what was happening now. I’ve always been a free-spirit. That was suspicious to them.
They took my Qur’an and my Dalail-ul-khariat (a compilation of prayers) and they were searching through these holy books like they were nothing and touching them with their left hands. I felt so exposed, disrespected and powerless. They stripped me of my human rights. It was frightening that this law existed.
During the search, the woman then said to me, “I am Muslim.”
She touched my Dalail and I said be careful with that, and she said “Why, is it a Qur’an? I envisioned her taking out a plastic bag and taking it for evidence. Inside, I laughed at how ridiculous these people looked.
She then said “We are all one, aren’t we? Although some follow the prophet “Ali Baba”.
She was mocking me, and mocking Islam. It was slimy, offensive and obscene.
I just said: “Yes, we’re all from The One. We’re all one humanity.”
They were trying to get a reaction out of me.
The whole thing made my skin crawl
I always take a second phone abroad, because I travel a lot. I’ve learnt that it’s good to have two phones in case one gets stolen or lost, so you have something in reserve. You keep one on your person, and one in a safe place like your hostel room.
As the lady was checking all of my luggage piece by piece, she missed my second phone. I decided to tell her about it so that if she happened to see it but ignored it, I could not be called out for not telling her about it.
You should not give these people the opportunity to lay a finger on you. Stay calm and keep ten steps ahead. Do not drain your mental energy on anger as it’ll fill up your mind and you’ll stumble.
Before they took my phone, I asked if I could take the address down where I needed to go as I was viewing flats in the coming days. She said yes, but as I wrote she was peering over my shoulder. She said they needed to know where I was going. Her behaviour was appalling.
They asked for my passwords, which was also very violating. I didn’t think of refusing them, as they said they would arrest me. I was a 22-year-old at the time.
The female officer then started making a big deal about this second phone.
I said: “I’ve been all over the world.”
She said: “I thought you were just this baby.” They were really trying to provoke me but I wasn’t having any of it. I knew they were trying to profile me. By not reacting, I did not give them what they wanted.
They said, “You don’t have much stuff.”
I said: “The more you love, the less you need.”
She told me to take my hijab off. I told her to tell the male officer not to come in. She went outside, then right after she came back inside, he came right in when I had no hijab on.
I felt really violated. Really, the whole thing made my skin crawl. I felt like a caged animal.
I was left with no phone, alone in the middle of the night
Eventually they let me go after just over an hour at about 2am. They took all my electronics off me and said “We have to thoroughly search through these”. They sent a young woman out into the world in the middle of the night with no way of contacting anybody else. I had to sit in the airport until 5am, just sitting there telling myself what I would have done, what I should of done.
I went to a friend’s house and sat outside until she appeared.
When I told my mum and family what had happened, they said: “You see, you shouldn’t have become a Muslim.”
I said: “You can put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, string me up and burn me, and I wouldn’t give Islam up, because it’s the truth.”
Muslims are going to be persecuted more and more, and we have to know our rights under these circumstances.
I feel much more confident now, having gone through this. I know how to stick up for myself. Next time – if there is a next time – I’ve decided I’m going to play ball much more and just sit and watch them make fools of themselves.
Really, it’s awful that people can do this to other human beings who are just living a peaceful life.
Allah is in complete control always
I’d advise people who get stopped just to keep calm and comply and let it go over your head. Obviously, if they ask you to take your hijab off, you can assert your rights. However, do not get angry at any point. It only causes loss. The best fighter is always calm.
It seemed to me they were trying to get a reaction out of me so that they could build a profile of me. When you start resisting, they can then make a profile of you.
So, don’t give them anything to use against you. Also, if you do get past the hour of being detained, then ask for a lawyer.
It really has made me stronger. These things are a test for us, and there is a reason these things are happening. Things are always good for the believer.
There have been a lot of times when I feel a lot of hatred from people, and it feels like I am there to dig them into a bigger hole by staying calm. We don’t know what Allah’s plan is for them. The Most Wise knows why things are this way and everything has a reason.
I also had to ask myself as a believer what this experience was bringing up in me, and after stepping back, I felt a lot less angry. I thought how awful it is to be in authority, to be standing over other people, telling them what to do. I would never want to do that. I actually felt more compassion for people trapped in a world of no faith. How exhausting to try and “be something” all the time.
We have to trust that Allah is on our side. The mercy of God is incredible. Really, if we thought about the moment, we would faint. He provides shelter and food even people who don’t pray, so imagine what He is providing for those of us who do pray.
Laughter is the best medicine and remember…this is not real life.
Know your rights if you’re ever stopped under Schedule 7 powers.
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Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)