British Muslim Schoolteacher Denied Entry To The U.S. As His Students Looked On

by Valerie Williams
Image via Twitter

He’s a lifelong British citizen with a valid visa

A British Muslim schoolteacher on his way to New York for a field trip with a group of 39 students was recently prevented from flying to the United States. The incident occurred just a week after a court upheld the decision to halt President Trump’s executive order banning entry of those from seven Muslim-majority countries. Not only is the ban not currently in place, the teacher is a born-and-raised British citizen with no ties to those nations.

Juhel Miah is a 25-year-old math teacher at the Llangatwg Comprehensive School in Wales. He was traveling with four other teachers and a group of 12-15-year-old students when he was prevented from boarding their connection to New York City. According to The Guardian, the trouble started at the Keflavík international airport. Miah says, “I gave one of the American officials there my passport. My first name is Mohammed. It felt as if straight away she looked up and said: ‘You’ve been randomly selected for a security check.’”

The teacher recounts, “Deep down I thought: ‘Here we go’ but I was polite and followed all the instructions. She took me into this room. There were five or six other officials. Two of them checked me. They made me take my jacket off, my hoodie off, they opened my bag, I took my shoes off. They made me stand on a stool. They rubbed me all the way down. They even pulled my trousers down to check my boxers. They rubbed their hands under my feet. They got a swab and wiped me all over. Eventually they let me go through.”

After that mildly humiliating experience, the young teacher thought he was clear to travel, but once he was on the plane assisting the kids in his charge, he was approached by an American official who escorted him off the plane. “She said: ‘I’ve just received a phone call. You are not allowed to go to New York and you are not allowed to be on this plane.’”

Miah explained to the official that he’s a British citizen with a valid visa and when he pressed for a reason why he wasn’t being allowed to fly, they couldn’t give him one.

He recounts how everyone on the plane watched as he walked off with the official. “Everyone was looking at me. Not just members of the public but my school, my kids, fellow teachers. It made me feel so small, as if I had done something wrong, as if I am a criminal. Everyone must have been thinking that – even the kids from my school. I hope not but that’s what was going through my head. I didn’t know where to look.”

Miah explains that he did nothing wrong and went out of his way to take the right steps to visit the U.S. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone. I’ve followed all the procedures. I’ve ticked all the right boxes yet they made me feel like a criminal. I’ve got no criminal record, I’ve never been in trouble. I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt powerless, as if I was being targeted and there was nothing I could do.”

The school made arrangements to get Miah back to Wales while his mind raced with possibilities for why he was denied entry. “I was going through everything. I was thinking have I said something on social media but I’m very careful because I’m a teacher.”

The first-class graduate of Swansea University has never even been to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan or Libya, the countries targeted by Trump’s failed immigration ban. His parents are of Bangladeshi origin and he’s a lifelong British citizen. Inevitably, Miah is left with one incredibly disturbing conclusion.

“I hope this isn’t true, I really don’t want this to be true but it all started with the first American official I met and the moment she read Mohammed.”

Welcome to Trump’s America. This is who we are now. Our country is likely denying entry to people based solely on their religion. Please explain how anyone was made safer by preventing a young, British schoolteacher chaperoning a field trip from coming into the U.S. It appears this is nothing more than blatant discrimination and it’s disgusting and shameful. Every American citizen should be horrified.

Despite the likely reason for Miah being removed from the plane, he remains hopeful the situation isn’t as sinister as it appears. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s my number one goal now. I want a reason, an explanation. If it was a mistake someone should just put their hands up and say it was a mistake and it won’t happen again. I would still like to go to America one day. I just hope it boils down to human error and someone says sorry.”

Though it seems unlikely, we hope it’s that simple as well.