All it took was one misunderstood text message for British authorities to pull a trio of Muslim siblings off a plane just outside London last week, the Guardian reports.
After a concerned passenger told the authorities that she saw Maryam and Sakina Dharas reading a text message concerning ISIS and Allah, flight attendants promptly escorted the two sisters and their brother, Ali, off the plane.
There, right on the tarmac, armed police and a military intelligence official interrogated the siblings for over an hour in addition to searching their phones and passports.
Over the course of that hour, the ugly truth came out:
The Dharas siblings were simply born and raised Londoners of Indian ethnic origin who were heading off to Naples for vacation. Sakina’s passport only had a stamp from Iraq because she’d gone there to help raise money for ISIS victims. And the fateful text message on Maryam’s phone? An exchange with her father about liberal British politician Jeremy Corbyn.
Authorities then allowed the siblings back on the plane but warned them that they’d be subject to further background checks and that police would be waiting for them at the airport upon their return if they found anything suspicious.
When they returned on August 20, no one was waiting for them at the airport.
The story, however, does not end there. Maryam has since published her account in the Guardian while Sakina wrote her story for the Independent, with both reports fueling a fiery dialogue about racial profiling.
This issue also dominated British headlines earlier this year in an eerily similar case in which a Nigerian-born British Christian was pulled off a plane (operated by the same airline as in the Dharas case) in London after a passenger claimed the man was reading a message about Muslim prayer on his phone.
To prevent incidents like these from happening again, Maryam, writing in the Guardian, is now calling for false accusations like the ones made against her to be treated as a serious crime by authorities. Otherwise, she writes, fear-mongering, profiling, and outright racism will continue on unabated:
I’d ordinarily read a prayer for a safe journey but, being aware of how religion has sadly become synonymous with terror in the eyes of many, I refrained from doing so. My sister had wanted to bring Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile to read on the plane but I had scoffed imagining the next day’s headline: “MUSLIM WOMAN SEEN BRANDISHING MURDER MANUAL”… But despite all that consideration and care we still ended up as targets.
In the end, Maryam contends, this is a basic issue of democracy and freedom. “The only way for society to progress is for the public to be aware that Muslims are exactly the same as everyone else,” she writes, “and that discrimination and suppressing someone’s right to practice their religion without fear of persecution goes against the core democratic values of this country.”
Next, meet the Muslim man who “hugged” an ISIS bomber into submission, sacrificed himself, and saved dozens of lives.