Ever since Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested keeping Muslims from entering the United States in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, attacks earlier this month, many decried the idea of excluding people from the country just because of their religion. Would such a policy, some wondered, be constitutional? Would it be American? Would it be decent?
Now, a British Muslim family headed to Disneyland from the United Kingdom has been prevented from entering the country by the Department of Homeland Security.
News reports say the family of 11, headed to the California resort from Gatwick Airport, was unable “to board the plane even though they had been granted travel authorisation online ahead of their planned 15 December flight.”
In a telephone call with The Washington Post, a spokesman for the US Embassy in London confirmed the family was prevented from leaving Britain, but offered no further details.
DHS was not immediately available for comment; the agency did not return requests for comment.
The story has caused great controversy on the other side of the Atlantic.
“It’s because of the attacks on America — they think every Muslim poses a threat,” Mohammad Tarek Mahmoud, who was headed to Disneyland with “his brother and nine of their children,” said.
“…I have never been more embarrassed in my life. I work here, I have a business here. But we were alienated.”
Mahmood added that no reason was given for keeping the family off of its flights — and that the non-refundable tickets cost more than $13,000 (Dh47,710).
The family’s cause has been taken up by British MP Stella Creasy, who represents the part of northeast London where the family lives.
“Online and offline discussions reverberate with the growing fear that UK Muslims are being ‘trumped’ — that widespread condemnation of Donald Trump’s call for no Muslim to be allowed into America contrasts with what is going on in practice,” Creasy wrote in the Guardian.
“Faced with such claims, our concern should be to offer more than a critique of American Republican primary political positioning. Because this isn’t happening in the US. It’s happening on British soil, at our airports and involving our citizens and challenging their sense of place in our society too.”
Creasy wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron about the case — the Guardian reported that he will respond “in due course.”
Cameron has condemned Trump’s views of Muslims in the past.
“I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong,” Cameron said earlier this month, “and I think if he came to visit our country I think he’d unite us all against him.”
Mahmood’s family are not the only British citizens denied entry to the United States.
The Guardian also cited the experience of Ajmal Mansoor, a well-known British imam who said he was prevented from flying on December 17 when he was told his visa was revoked.
“I am baffled, annoyed and angry,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“USA has the right to issue and revoke visa — I fully understand that. However not forwarding any reasons infuriates ordinary people. It does not win the hearts and minds of people, it turns them off. I am amazed how irrational these processes are but does USA care about what you and I think? I don’t think so!”
Mansoor blamed his troubles on the leading Republican presidential candidate.
“America is the country of the free and the brave, that’s what we’ve been told,” Mansoor told the BBC, “but it looks like it’s stooped downed to paranoia and narrow-mindedness. That’s unfortunate. It looks like Donald Trump and his followers — the maniacs, I call them — are winning the day.”
The US embassy in London and Britain’s Home Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.