The holy month of Ramadan is an opportunity where many Muslims from Britain take the opportunity to travel to Masjid Al-Aqsa in Palestine. Being the third holiest Masjid in Islam it holds great significance and this journey parallels pilgrimage. Whereas many Muslims would love to undertake this journey to Jerusalem if it were not for the harassment, intimidation and occasional violence from the Israeli authority and extremist.
This year the experience of Mohammed a teacher from London is becoming a routine experience for some British Muslims. Upon his arrival at Tel Aviv airport on Thursday 23rd of June the Israeli security forces separated him and begun interrogation that was to end in solitary confinement.
During his interrogation same questions were repeated over and over. He had begun to worry when the question moved to terrorism and his views on ISIS and even if he knew jihadi John. After over 6 hours of questioning they begun to scan each and every item he had individually. To add insult to injury they took photos of him without his permission. After this humiliating ordeal he was unceremoniously put in a van and he was then taken to departures and taken to a detention centre in a room with other men.
Throughout this period no reasons were given why he was being locked up and what he had done. He asked to call the British embassy but was repeatedly refused. Mockingly the Israeli security replied the phone battery ‘was dead’. With everything taken away from him, unable to contact anyone he could not tell the time to perform his prayers or even eat the last meal before starting the fast.
The next day, he made persistent efforts with the guards to make a phone call to the British embassy. They finally allowed him to contact them but he was told there was nothing they could do. The condition of the cell was disgusting; it was very unhygienic and smelt terrible. Requests for vegetarian food were ignored and there was delays and inconsistency with providing food and water.
After 3 days in the cell they were allowed 10-minute exercise and this was the first time he saw the sun. Later that day he was finally taken to the airport and put on a plane. What was to follow was racist bigotry from the passengers. Mohammed was humiliated further and taken off the plane after Islamophobic complaints by passengers flying from Tel Aviv back to London.
Friends of Al-Aqsa spoke to Monarch airlines early today and they confirmed that four passengers were offloaded from a flight from Tel Aviv to London Luton airport on Sunday 26th of June. They added that two passengers travelled back with Monarch the following day and the other two travelled with another airline. They have not released a statement stating why passengers were taken off the flight including Mohammed, a 10-year-old boy and his father.
From the plane they took him back to a cell and when he asked for water he was told to drink from the toilet. The security guards taunted him by calling him a ‘terrorist’. After a horrific 4 days Mohammed was finally put onto a flight and arrived in the UK in the early hours on Tuesday 28th of June.
Mohammed’s story has come to light because he is brave to go public but this experience is no exception for British Muslims. While Israel continues to detain and threaten innocent British Muslim travellers the media and British government appear reluctant to address these Israeli violations. Israel’s complete and utter disregard for the rights of British Muslims is appalling and it is time the British government holds Israel to account.
Despite Mohammed’s horror story it should not put people off from going. Palestine will always be a blessed land to Muslims and it is important to show solidarity and continue visiting.
Published: 30th June 2016