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Three Indian-origin Muslim siblings, including two hijab-clad girls, have claimed that they were hauled off a plane at an airport in London and questioned on the tarmac by British policemen after a passenger accused them of being ISIS supporters.
Sakina Dharas, 24, Maryam Dharas, 19, and Ali Dharas, 21, had boarded the easyJet flight from Stansted to the Italian city of Naples last week when they were approached by a cabin crew member and asked to accompany her off the aircraft without explanation, media reports said.
The trio from northwest London were hauled off the plane and grilled for an hour by officers, who first asked them, “Do you speak English?”, according to Sakina, who narrated the ordeal writing in The Independent and in a Facebook post. They were asked by one of the officers, “Right, we have to speak with you. A passenger on your flight has claimed that you three are members of ISIS,” Sakina said.
“They saw you with Arabic or praise be to Allah on your phone,” the officer was quoted as saying by Sakina. In their reply, the siblings said, “Firstly, that’s part of the Quran, our religious text, so even if we did have it, it wouldn’t signify that we’re a part of ISIS at all.”
“Regardless, we’ve had nothing on our phone remotely Arabic related this morning. Also, we’re Indian by ethnicity, so we wouldn’t even have Arabic in conversation with anyone,” they told the officers, according to Sakina.
During their one-hour interrogation on the tarmac, Sakina said she was asked to explain the details of various entry stamps on her passport. She also showed a MI5 agent recent WhatsApp messages. The siblings provided answers relating to their personal lives and were questioned on their home addresses, workplaces, social media history and parents’ professions, Sakina wrote in her post.
“The MI5 and police officers apologised for the ‘inconvenience’ and assure(d) us that, at a time where we are all ‘on edge’, they have to respond to threats such as these. Our accusers, we are told, were very ‘frightened’,” Sakina wrote.
“We were only allowed back on that plane, to continue our journey, because there wasn’t a shred of doubt on the part of investigators that we were innocent of the crimes accused — but somebody has been lying and misleading the authorities. Why weren’t those passengers who made the false claim about us removed from the plane for wasting valuable police time?” she asked. They returned from their holiday on August 20.
A spokesman for easyJet said the three had been taken off the flight “following concerns raised by a passenger”. “The police then confirmed to the captain that the passengers were cleared to complete their journey and they re-boarded the aircraft and the flight departed to Naples,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passengers,” he said.