Being a Muslim in Europe

“It takes me longer to explain it than anything else,” the officer at the UK border of Dover Port quipped, “but I have the power to detain, search and question you for up to six hours, although I’m sure it’s not going to take that long, under Schedule 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.”


A peculiar mix of extreme politeness and also racism, so prevalent amongst some sections of British society.


“Oh, OK,” I replied.  “Well, don’t worry, I’m not a terrorist.”


After establishing that a written record of the impromptu interrogation would be kept “indefinitely”, again with the courteous reason of providing evidence if I ever wanted to enquire as to why I had been stopped, I decided to make such an enquiry right away.


“So why have I been stopped?” I asked.


“Well, I saw some stamps from Morocco and Mauritius..”


“Mauritius?  I’ve never been to Mauritius in my life.”


“I don’t have your passport to hand right now so I can’t quite remember, but I think there were a few Arabic stamps in there,” the officer helpfully elaborated.  “Are you a religious man?”


“I’m a Muslim, if that’s what you mean.”


“Oh no,” he looked flustered now, “I didn’t want to make any assumptions.”  It was reassuring to know that he was so free of any “assumptions”.


I was polite for the rest of this enthralling conversation, until his last question, which I felt might need further comment.


“Do you go to the mosque?”


“Why do you want to ask me that?  Shouldn’t you be trying to work out whether I’m a terrorist or not?  I don’t understand the relevance, and you need to be careful with these kinds of questions, because it changes from looking for someone who might be a terrorist, to just looking for Muslims.”


“But sometimes people are being taught extreme views by certain organisations, and they don’t even know!”


“Okay, so ask me if I’m a member of this or that organisation, but how does “Do you go to the mosque?” help your investigation?  If I say yes, do you write down that this guy might be a terrorist?  Does it make it more likely?  Less likely?  There’s no link between someone going to a mosque, and someone being a terrorist.”


“Well,” the officer replied, “we only get a few minutes to talk to you.”  Sorry about that, would love to have stayed.  On the bright side, at least it didn’t take six hours.


It’s funny, but when I think of terrorists I think of groups like the Stern Gang.  Not someone who hasn’t been to Mauritius.

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