British Muslim teacher escorted off US flight hopes it was a mistake

British Muslim teacher escorted off US flight hopes it was a mistake
Video grab from Reuters interview with a British Muslim teacher who was escorted off a flight bound for New York. (Reuters)
Updated 24 February 2017

British Muslim teacher escorted off US flight hopes it was a mistake

British Muslim teacher escorted off US flight hopes it was a mistake

A British Muslim teacher planned to accompany his students on a school trip to the American city of New York, but little did he know that he would be denied entry to the United States.
Juhel Miah, 25, a math teacher, was escorted off the flight by American officials, thinking he was singled out because of his religious affiliation.
Miah was born in Birmingham and brought up in Swansea, said that he felt humiliated due to the treatment by American officials.
Both Miah and Llangatwg community school, near Neath, south Wales, are calling for an urgent clarification from the American authorities.
“No one could give me an explanation,” Miah said. “The only thing I can put it down to, unfortunately – I hope I’m wrong – is because I’m a Muslim. That’s all I can put it down to. I hope that’s not true.
“I’m not an angry type of person,” he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “I don’t get easily worked up; otherwise, I wouldn’t be a teacher. But I was definitely angry. It hit me the hardest was when I was being escorted off the plane. Everyone was looking at me.”
Being targeted in front of not only passengers, but also the school’s children and fellow teachers made Miah uncomfortable.
“It made me feel so small as if I had done something wrong, as if I am a criminal,” he said. “Everyone must have been thinking that – even the kids from my school. I hope not but that’s what was going through my head. I didn’t know where to look.”
The math teacher, whose parents are of Bangladeshi origin, argued that what happened to him should not be encountered by anyone.
The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, has written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson asking for “urgent clarification.” The US has not commented.
Miah was one of other five teachers who were accompanying a party of 39 children to New York via Iceland last week.
While the party was catching their plane on to the United States, the problems started to emerge at Keflavík International Airport near Reykjavik.
“I gave one of the American officials there my passport. My first name is Mohammed. It felt as if straight away she looked up and said: ‘You’ve been randomly selected for a security check.’ ”
Miah followed the American officials’ instructions and followed her to a room. “There were five or six other officials. Two of them checked me. They made me take my jacket off, my hoodie off, they opened my bag, and I took my shoes off. They made me stand on a stool. They rubbed me all the way down. They even pulled my trousers down to check my boxers. They rubbed their hands under my feet. They got a swab and wiped me all over. Eventually, they let me go through.”
Miah, who has a degree from Swansea University, could see out of the corner of his eye an American official coming toward him while he was helping the eight students he was in charge of to settle. “She asked: ‘Are you Mohammed Miah? You need to come with me.’ ” Miah was taken to the front of the plane and escorted off. “’I’ve just received a phone call. You are not allowed to go to New York and you are not allowed to be on this plane,’ the official told me.”
The teacher was not given any explanation as to why he was escorted, despite being a British citizen with a valid visa.
Vouchers for a taxi and a hotel were all that have been given to Miah that day in compensation to what happened to him. He was made to wait outside the American embassy in Reykjavik in the rain the next day upon his arrival. “The security guard stopped me, took my passport, came back 10 minutes later. He didn’t want to know. He gave me a card with three numbers on. There was no answer from the first number and the others did not ring out.”
The school made necessary arrangements for Maih to fly back to the United Kingdom. “I was going through everything. I was thinking have I said something on social media but I’m very careful because I’m a teacher,” he thought to himself while waiting to return home.
Neither Miah nor his family has ever been to any of the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in Trump’s travel ban — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.
“My brother flew to Florida last year. I still can’t pinpoint why me,” Miah wondered.
“I hope this isn’t true, I really don’t want this to be true but it all started with the first American official I met and the moment she read Mohammed.
Despite the unpleasant incident, Miah still wants to go to America one day. “I just hope it boils down to human error and someone says sorry,” the teacher said.