The draconian counter-terrorism law Schedule 7 was used by police to force the woman to remove her hijab at Heathrow Airport for photos.
In October 2018, Asiyah was forced to take off her hijab so male officers could photograph her at London's Heathrow airport. This power granted to officers is known as Schedule 7, which allows individuals to be stopped and searched at UK ports and airports even if there are no grounds for suspicion.
London-based advocacy organisation CAGE says an increasing number of Muslim women have approached them complaining that they were “violated” and “humiliated” during Schedule 7 stops, by officers compelling them to remove their hijabs for photographs.
According to CAGE the notion of forcing a woman to remove her hijab is similar to a type of religious strip search, and has nothing to do with the stated purpose of Schedule 7 – to assess whether an individual is a security risk. The controversial counter-terrorism law makes it an offence if an individual fails to comply with officers’ demands, such as removing a headscarf or answering questions.
A transcript of a recorded interview between male officers and Asiyah at Heathrow airport reveals that police told her that “we can take photographs that we need by force” and “you might end up being arrested because you wouldn’t let us take a photograph of your hair”.
The transcript also shows the officer saying: “I have no idea [of] the positioning of your ears on your face. Like, you might not even have any ears. We don’t know what you look like.”
CAGE says Schedule 7 is a discriminatory law that has impacted tens of thousands of people since its inception. The evidence-based research highlighted the intrusive nature of harassment at borders and how it is having a damning impact on communities and society by violating individual rights and intimidating them.
Asiyah was travelling to Bahrain with her family when asked to remove her hijab at Schedule 7 stop. Asiyah said: “Being forced to remove my hijab was the most dehumanising and embarrassing experience of my life. I was made to feel worthless. I felt that my honour had been violated. Schedule 7 is a horrifying experience for a young woman like myself. The fact that the police can behave in such a way without any repercussions is frightening.”
She pursued a judicial review against the police so that no other Muslim woman faces what she had to go through. Her lawyer Anne McMurdie from Birnberg and Pierce Solicitors said: “Schedule 7 powers are draconian and wide-ranging. The police must exercise these extraordinary powers with respect for the rights of religious observance of those they stop.”
The police made a substantial damages payment to Asiyah and conceded that removing her hijab and taking photos of her breached her human rights and the retention of the photos was therefore unlawful.
Referring to Asiyah’s case as “the latest event to highlight the Islamophobic nature of Schedule 7 stops”, CAGE describes it as: “Systemic abuse that fuels racial and religious profiling primarily targeting Muslims and normalising ‘othering’ by subjecting them to intrusive and evasive measures.”
Muhammad Rabbani, managing director of Cage said: “It is clear the police knew they were discriminating against Muslim women and therefore opted to settle, in order to avoid Asiyah’s case setting a precedent for other women who have had their hijabs forcibly removed.”
CAGE aims to challenge the “discriminatory” practice of removing hijabs during border checks with the upcoming #HandsOffOurHijabs campaign. They have recently called for the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims to investigate the discrimination of Muslims travelling through UK borders with their #passwithprivacy campaign.
The article came from TRT World’s Eyes on Discrimination (EOD) Centre, which monitors and reports on offences, hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories. We promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.