Muslim Woman Detained for Reading Book on Syrian Art While on a Plane

She was on her honeymoon at the time, no less.

A Thomson Airways Boeing 787. Photo Julian Stratenschulte/AFP/Getty Images.
A Thomson Airways Boeing 787. Photo Julian Stratenschulte/AFP/Getty Images.

Faizah Shaheen was reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline on board a Thomson Airways flight when she was briefly detained by authorities under terrorism laws, reports the Independent.

Shaheen was returning from her honeymoon at the time. She is a mental health worker for Britain’s National Health Service and devotes her work to preventing teenagers from becoming radicalized. A crew member had reported her for suspicious activity. She was questioned on arriving at Doncaster Airport, in South Yorkshire, on July 25.

“I do question if whether it would be different if it was someone who wasn’t Muslim,” Shaheen tells the Independent.

“We appreciate that in this instance Ms Shaheen may have felt that overcaution had been exercised,” a spokesman told the paper. “However, like all airlines, our crew are trained to report any concerns they may have as a precaution.”

“She was not arrested,” the South Yorkshire Police, whose officers detailed Shaheen, told the BBC. “She was held for 15 minutes and was subsequently released.”

The cover of <em>Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline</em>. Courtesy of Saqi Books.

The cover of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. Courtesy of Saqi Books.

The book, published by Saqi Books and edited by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen, and Nawara Mahfoud, earned high praise from the New York Review of Books, which said, “For an introduction to the ideas and culture of the original Syrian protesters, one can scarcely do better than Syria Speaks.” It features posters, cartoons, photography as well as fiction and poetry, according to the review.

Shaheen told the Independent that she’s planning to file complaints against the police and the airline.


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