A British Muslim man has said he was taken off a flight from Manchester to Morocco because of his beard.
Ahmed Ali, 39, from Derby, says he was removed from a Thomson Airlines flight earlier this month from Manchester to Marrakech, where he and his wife were due to spend their honeymoon.
After being taken off the plane, Ali, who is a volunteer at the aid charity A Helping Hand, was questioned by police waiting outside of the boarding gates for several hours under section seven of the Terrorism Act, he says.
Under that power, police officers can stop, search, and examine passengers at ports, international railways, and airports. Officers are also allowed to examine electronic devices the passenger may be holding.
In a video Ali posted on Facebook a week after the incident took place, he said he and his wife, whom he did not wish to name, had gone through airport security and the departure lounge and on to the plane without a problem.
"All of a sudden, one of the air stewardesses tapped me on the shoulder and said I needed to leave," he says in the video. "When I asked why, I was told that the police are waiting for you outside and you need to go."
When Ali and his wife left the plane, he says he met police officers who told him he would be questioned.
'I explained that I was British," he says. "I'm a British Muslim. I go out and feed the homeless in Britain – white people. I've been to Cumbria to help people." He says the incident made him "very upset and angry".
"I wanted them to arrest me so I could take this further," he says. "I wanted it to go to court so I could prove that all of this was wrong. ... I said to [the police,] 'I'm not answering anything'. I said, 'I've had enough.'"
In the video, Ali says he does not pose a security threat and that he was part of a volunteer team that helped provide food and water for families affected by flooding in Northumbria last year.
After the police questioning, he and his wife returned back to their home in Derby, he says, and were not offered a seat on an alternative flight or any compensation.
He also says that he has been stopped and questioned by police at airports more than 20 times, most recently after he came from from Mecca with his mother:
"Three weeks ago I was stopped with my mum. They insulted my mum, they insulted me, and for what? Because I've got a beard. It's supposed to be in fashion; everybody has a beard but you don't see white people getting stopped."
Ali is planning to write formal complaints to Thomson Airlines and Greater Manchester police over his treatment.
"I could not believe what had happened. To take us off the plane was very embarrassing and humiliating. ... I want those passengers to know that I am innocent and I have done nothing wrong."
BuzzFeed News has contacted Ali, but he had not responded by the time of publication.
In a statement, Thomson Airways confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Ali had been asked to leave the aircraft.
"At the request of the authorities, a customer was asked to leave the aircraft due to depart from Manchester to Marrakech at 0845 on Friday 5th February," a spokesperson said. "As this is a matter for the authorities, we are unable to comment further."
Greater Manchester police also confirmed that the incident took place and that "the man was questioned under the Section seven Counter Terrorism Act and was subsequently released". However, the force did not release any further information about the incident.
A Home Office spokesperson told BuzzFeed News it did not comment on individual cases. In a guidance note, the spokesperson said border force officers did not routinely carry out arrests or questioning under section seven.
Ali's case adds to a growing number of incidents in which British Muslims believe they have been prevented from flying because of their religion.
Last year, a Muslim family from the UK were prevented from flying to Disneyland in California after having their rights to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program revoked.
Hussein Kesvani is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hussein Kesvani at Hussein.Kesvani@BuzzFeed.com.
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