LONDON – In a crackdown on his legal rights, a British Muslim imam has been prevented from boarding a plane to the US from Heathrow airport over concerns about one of his 28,000 Facebook followers.
“Unfortunately just as I was about to board the plane the American official, that’s what he claimed, took me aside and said your visa has been revoked, and he still hasn’t given me clear reasons why, apart from the suggestion that they made that they have got somebody on my Facebook that they want to talk to and they don’t like,” Ajmal Masroor told BBC London on Wednesday, January 13.
“So it’s ridiculous, it’s an absolute scandal.”
Maroor, spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain, was travelling to New York just before Christmas and was stopped from boarding at Heathrow.
He told BBC London US officials never gave him a clear reason and said his treatment was “an absolute scandal”.
The US Embassy said it was “in contact with the individual” but refused to make any further comment.
He said that he was invited to lead Friday prayers at a mosque in New York and was due to deliver some lectures at conferences while there.
Masroor said he was asked if he knew a person through social media, but the imam said he did not recognize the name or know the person.
“If there is any reason to believe that I have been involved in anything illegal, anything that violates any law in any country in the world, take me to court, find me guilty, put me in the prison, but to revoke my visa with no reason and giving no concrete evidence is just ridiculous,” he said.
“Profiling people based on their religion, especially being a Muslim and flying makes a mockery out of what we call a democracy and freedom.”
Imam Masroor is not the first Muslim to be targeted for no clear reason at the US borders.
In February 2014, a US Muslim Air Force veteran complained of being barred from leaving the country after being allowed to care for his terminally-ill mother.
In May 2012, fifteen American Muslims, including four military veterans, sued the federal government over being placed on a “no-fly” list for no apparent reason.
Earlier in 2011, an American Muslim family was kicked off a JetBlue flight because their 18-month child was flagged as no-fly.
In 2009, nine members of a Muslim family were removed from a domestic AirTran Airways flight to Orlando, Florida, after they chatted about their seats in the plane.