After a British Muslim family was barred from flying to the United States for a planned vacation to Disneyland, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said it would investigate the last-minute cancellation.
Stella Creasy, a member of the opposition Labour party, wrote to Mr. Cameron seeking his intervention after the family, who are from her district in northeast London, was told their authorization to travel to the US had been revoked as they waited in the departure lounge at Gatwick Airport.
The family of 11 – two brothers and their nine children – say they weren’t provided any explanation by officials from the US Department of Homeland Security.
Ms. Creasy raised concerns that US officials may be discriminating against British Muslims in the wake of attacks linked to extremist groups. He asked Cameron to investigate after having hit “a brick wall” in determining why the family’s right to fly was revoked, she told the Guardian.
“It’s because of the attacks on America – they think every Muslim poses a threat,” Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, who had planned to travel to Los Angeles to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios with his brother and their children, told the paper.
The family had been anticipating the trip for months, having previously obtained permission online to fly to the US weeks in advance, only to see it cancelled last minute without explanation, he said.
The issue has gained additional sensitivity because of controversial calls by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the US. Mr. Trump’s comments have been widely condemned by people ranging from Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
But Creasy told The Associated Press there’s been a rising fear among many Muslims that the public condemnation of Mr. Trump’s comments “contrasts with what is going on in practice."
Tahla Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain called the denial of boarding privileges, “very, very worrying,” because it was part of a pattern, he told Sky News.
"It seems like it's not a unique or isolated incident," he said.
Ajmal Mansoor, an imam and lecturer from Bristol, described feeling “baffled, annoyed and angry,” after being turned away from boarding a flight to New York on December 17. As with Mr. Mahmood's family, he was told only that his travel authorization had been revoked.
“USA has the right to issue and revoke visa – I fully understand that,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“However not forwarding any reasons infuriates ordinary people. It does not win the hearts and minds of people, it turns them off,” he added. “I am amazed how irrational these processes are but does USA care about what you and I think? I don’t think so!”
Cameron’s office pledged to investigate the family’s loss of their flying privileges, while the US Embassy – which Creasy had reached out to in an attempt to determine why the family was prevented from traveling – declined comment to the AP.
Previously, the Prime Minister echoed the condemnation of Mr. Trump’s comments in the US, calling them "divisive and wrong."
This report contains material from The Associated Press.