London - Three British siblings were removed from an easyJet flight after passengers wrongly accused them of “reading Islamic State material”.
A couple thought they saw the phrase “praise be to Allah” in Arabic on the siblings’ phones – and reported them.
Ali Dharas, 21, and his sisters Sakina, 24, and Maryam, 19, are of Indian heritage but were born in London and grew up there.
After taking their seats on the flight from Stansted to Naples, they were escorted from the plane and questioned by armed police.
In an hour-long interrogation on the tarmac, they were asked if they could speak English and asked to hand over their mobile phones. They said they did not have Arabic texts on the devices and that they had been targeted by passengers who assumed they were jihadis because of their appearance.
The siblings were told they could be subject to further background checks, before being allowed to continue their journey.
Writing on Facebook about the incident, which took place on August 17, Sakina said the officers told them: “A passenger on your flight has claimed that you three are members of IS… They saw you with Arabic or ‘praise be to Allah’ on your phone.”
Miss Dharas, a clinical pharmacist at University College London, wrote: “Firstly, that’s part of the Qur’an, our religious text, so even if we did have it, it wouldn’t signify that we’re a part of IS… regardless, we’ve had nothing on our phone remotely Arabic-related this morning. We’re Indian by ethnicity, so we wouldn’t even have Arabic in conversation.” She added: “We would only have been allowed back on the plane if there wasn’t a shred of doubt… so someone must be the liar here.
“Why were those passengers not removed for wasting police time, lying, making false allegations and racial profiling?”
An easyJet spokesperson said a member of ground staff had “requested the assistance of the police who took the decision to talk to three passengers at the bottom of the aircraft steps”. He added: “If a security concern is raised we will always investigate it… We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passengers.”
A spokesperson for Essex Police said the force had received reports of “concern regarding the behaviour of three people” and that, after examining their phones, officers “quickly established that no offences had been committed”. He added: “We are satisfied the call was of good intent.”