A Muslim family in London say they were barred from a plane bound for Los Angeles, where they planned to visit Disneyland with their children, because of their religion.
The extended family, which included Tariq Mahmood, his brother Zahid and his wife Sadaf were at the gate, along with seven children. Their bags were on the plane. They said they were looking forward to visiting the Grand Canyon, Disneyland and other American tourist sites and were not given a reason for the ban, according to Tariq Mahmood.
However, a check by CNN of traveling family members on UK Electoral Roll shows an email address associated with 18-year-old Hamza Mahmoud that links to a suspicious Facebook page.
The page appears to belong to a Birmingham resident with a similar name, whose occupation is listed as Supervisor at Taliban and Leader at al-Qaeda.
When asked by reporters about the Facebook link, the family said the email listed on the electoral roll is incorrect, missing some characters, and that the son lives in London, not Birmingham.
Tariq Mahmoud confirmed his son Hamza was part of the trip, and he told CNN the family had no knowledge of the Facebook page until asked about it by a reporter.
Earlier, Tariq Mahmoud told CNN: “We’ve been Trumped.”
There was no allegation that the U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump played a direct role in their case. The implication, rather, was that the atmosphere to which Trump has contributed, with his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, played a role in their exclusion solely, they believe, on the grounds of religion.
Asked about the incident on Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jim Burns told CNN that religion is never a factor in admissibility. “The religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs of an international traveler are not determining factors about his/her admissibility into the U.S.,” he said in a statement emailed to CNN, but added that under U.S. immigration law, “applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States.”
Family told Washington said they could not come
The family was waiting to board when Tariq Mahmood’s name was called out on a loud speaker.
British officials familiar with the incident say U.S. Border Control at Gatwick stopped the family. They were told that after contact received from Washington, the families would not be allowed to board.
The family asked if they were being stopped because they were Muslim, but were given no explanation, they said. Their bags were removed from the plane, and they were ordered to return all the duty-free goods they had purchased, and then escorted from the airport.
CNN London contacted the Home Office which manages UK Border Control, but they declined to given an on-the-record comment.
A U.S. official told CNN that not all family members were prevented from traveling. The official would not specify who would have been permitted to travel.
Children upset at sudden cancellation
The incident comes on the heels of high-profile and deadly terrorist attacks committed by radical Muslims, including those in Paris, in which 130 people died, and in San Bernadino, California, in which 14 people were killed.
Still, Trump’s proposal was poorly received in Britain. More than 300,000 people signed a petition to ban Trump from the UK and British Prime Minister David Cameron called Trump’s comments “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”
Norwegian Airlines released this short statement: “We can confirm that a group of passengers were denied the right to board a flight from London Gatwick to Los Angeles on Tuesday 15 December at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Norwegian fully complies with requests from the border controls of each country we serve.”
The families said their children are still upset at the sudden cancellation of the family holiday and that they have still not received an explanation for the incident from either UK or U.S. authorities.
They said they are convinced that the only possible reason for removing them was because their Muslim faith.
They said Norwegian Airlines has told them they are not entitled to a refund.