British Muslim detained for reading a book about Syria while on a plane

A British woman of Muslim descent was detained and questioned by police under terror laws after a flight crew member noticed she was reading a book about Syrian art while flying to Turkey.

The Thomson Airways attendant reported her for "suspicious behavior," which amounted to reading a book.

Faizah Shaheen, 27, is not a terrorist. The NHS mental health worker just been married. She was flying to Turkey to celebrate her honeymoon.

She is a psychotherapist from Leeds who works with at-risk teens to help prevent them becoming 'radicalized.' Shaheen was reading the book Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline on her honeymoon flight. It looks like a really cool art book, put together by some really cool people, and I'm ordering a copy for myself right now.

Police detained her at Doncaster airport on July 25, on her flight home from her honeymoon in Turkey. A Thomson Airways flight attendant reported her for her suspiciously radical book-reading behavior on her outbound flight two weeks prior.

Sulafa Hijazi: untitled work from the series

Sulafa Hijazi: untitled work from the series "Ongoing," 2012. This image is featured in the book 'Syria Speaks.'

Shaheen was angry and in tears, and says she believes she was targeted because of her faith and ethnicity. She plans to make a formal complaint against the police, and against Thomson Airways.

"Police officers questioned Shaheen for 15 minutes under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, under which the police can detain individuals without grounds for suspicion of involvement in criminal activities, including terrorism," reports the Guardian.

"I was completely innocent – I was made to feel like a culprit," Shaheen told The Independent.

"I was queuing at passport control and saw police staring at me I just got through passport control and then two police officers approached me and took me aside and asked me to show my passport again.

"I asked what was going on and they said I had been reported due to a book I was reading and was to be questioned under the Terrorism Act."

"I became very angry and upset. I couldn't understand how reading a book could cause people to suspect me like this. I told the police that I didn't think it was right or acceptable."

She was given an information leaflet explaining that Schedule 7 legislation is used by police to determine whether a person appears to be or has been involved in terrorism.

"I was asked what I do," she said. "I told them I work as a child and adolescent mental health services practitioner for the NHS.

"Ironically, a part of my job role is working on anti-radicalisation and assessing vulnerable young people with mental health problems are at risk of being radicalised.

"I said that to the police. I'm actually part of trying to fight radicalisation and breaking the stereotypes.


Here's the publisher blurb about the book, which includes 108 color illustrations of Syrian art. Does this sound like a terrorist tract to you?

In Syria, culture has become a critical line of defence
against tyranny.

Syria Speaks is a celebration of a people determined to reclaim their dignity, freedom and self-expression. It showcases the work of over fifty artists and writers who are challenging the culture of violence in Syria. Their literature, poems and songs, cartoons, political posters and photographs document and interpret the momentous changes that have shifted the frame of reality so drastically in Syria.

Moving and inspiring, Syria Speaks is testament to the courage, creativity and imagination of the Syrian people.

A unique anthology providing a window into Syrian art and writing since the uprising. Contributors include
internationally renowned artists and writers, such as Ali Ferzat, Samar Yazbek, Khaled Khalifa and Robin Yassin-Kassab.