London: A retired British fireman was
detained at a busy UK airport for allegedly making "racist
remarks" as he asked why a veiled woman was not checked by the
David Jones, 67, a retired fireman, and creator of the
popular children`s character, Fireman Sam, was detained at
Gatwick airport for a friendly quip about a veiled woman not
being checked by the security.
As Jones arrived at the security gates at Gatwick airport,
he was looking forward to getting through swiftly so he could
enjoy lunch with his daughters before their flight.
Placing his belongings, including a scarf, into a tray to
pass through the X-ray scanner, he spotted a Muslim woman in
hijab pass through the area without showing her face.
In a light-hearted aside to a security official who had
been assisting him, he said, "If I was wearing this scarf over
my face, I wonder what would happen."
The quip proved to be a mistake. After passing through the
gates, he was confronted by staff and accused of racism, the
Daily Telegraph reported.
As his daughters, who had passed through security, waited
in the departure lounge wondering where he was, he was
subjected to a one hour stand-off as officials tried to force
him to apologise.
"Something like George Orwell`s 1984 now seems to have
arrived in Gatwick airport. I feel that my rights as an
individual have been violated. What I underwent amounts to
intimidation and detention. I was humiliated and degraded in
full public view`" Jones said.
He said that when he made his initial remark the security
guard had appeared to agree with him, saying: "I know what you
mean, but we have our rules, and you aren`t allowed to say
He was confronted by a guard later who said he was being
detained because he had made an offensive remark.
"She took my passport and boarding pass and I was then
escorted back through the security zone into the outer area.
Here the female security guard proceeded to question me
further, inferring many things that I had not said," Jones
Jones was asked to apologise which he refused outrightly
but later agreed to a compromise that he should agree that
what he had said "could" be considered offensive by a Muslim
Department for Transport rules do not prevent people
covering their faces at UK airports for religious reasons.
However, all passengers must show their faces to UK Borders
officials when they pass through passport control.