Britain’s first Muslim minister has described his disappointment after he was detained at a US airport, where his hand luggage was analysed for traces of explosive materials.
Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury and International Development Minister, was returning to Heathrow after a series of meetings and talks on tackling terrorism, when he was stopped at Dulles Airport in Washington DC yesterday morning.
He was searched and detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the same department whose representatives he had been meeting on his visit to the country.
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Mr Malik said yesterday: “After a few minutes a couple of other people were also taken to one side. We were all Muslims – the other two were black Muslims, both with Muslim names.”
Mr Malik said he was particularly annoyed as a similar thing happened to him last year, when he was detained for an hour at JFK airport in New York by the DHS.
This was despite the fact he was a keynote speaker at an event organised by the department, alongside the FBI and Muslim organisations in New York.
The theme of that speech was tackling extremism and defeating terrorism.
Mr Malik said he received numerous apologies and assurances from the USA authorities after that incident.
After his detention yesterday, which lasted about 40 minutes, he said: “I am deeply disappointed.
“The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave but I really do believe that British Ministers and Parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress.
“Obviously, there was no malice involved but it has to be said that the USA system does not inspire confidence.”