This Human Voice story forms part of CAGE’s report Schedule 7: Harassment at Borders

See the rest of the report here

It was like a progression, to establish my religiosity. And the whole thing is done in such a way as to make you feel that you are doing something wrong for simply practising Islam.

I was only stopped once. I am a filmmaker and I do a lot of work for aid organisations. I have been to Syria before, with the Unity Convoy, but while others were stopped arriving in Turkey, I wasn’t stopped.

But in 2017, I was travelling to Amsterdam to do some work. It was a group of us and we were stopped at Dover and separated.

I had two different police officers coming back and forth asking me questions. During this I had a DNA sample taken from my mouth.

The questions were centred on my religiosity, my belief.

They asked me: “So you’re Muslim. Do you pray?”

I said: “Yes I do.”

“Do you pray regularly?”

“Yes I do.”

“Do you fast?”

I said I did.

They said: “Would you consider yourself a good Muslim?”

I said: “I try my best. I always try to do better.”

They asked: “Have you been on hajj and umrah?”

I said, no but I hoped Allah that would one day allow me to go.

It was like a progression, to establish my religiosity. And the whole thing is done in such a way as to make you feel that you are doing something wrong for simply practising Islam.

I could tell exactly what they were trying to get me to say

They did the ‘good cop’, ‘bad cop’ thing. The ‘bad cop’ was questioning me, and the other one, he kept coming in and asking me if I was okay. This was to lead me into trusting them.

Then the next thing another guy came in, and he asked me: “Do you believe Islam is the truth?”

And I said, “Yes, I do.”

“Do you believe Islam should rule the world?”

I said: “Yes, that is a promise from Allah.

Then I could see he was trying to ask another question but he wasn’t sure how to put it, and I just said, you know, just ask me straight. I said: “I know what you are you trying to ask me. You want to ask me if I would do violence to achieve that. I would say no, Islam is an intellectual religion, and it has won hearts and minds and it will continue to do so, so there is no need for violence really.”

I said: “Whether we like it or not, Islam will be established.”

He went off after that.

Then he tried to bait me with the whole Sunni-Shia thing

They already knew I had been to Syria and done some aid work. They had stopped my boss and his son as part of the Unity convoy. They tried to question me on that.

Anyway, the guy came back and he really shot himself in the foot.

He said: “so you’re into photography and I am into writing books, and I have just written one about the Sunni-Shia divide and how it emerged in the history of Islam.”

I just looked at him, like I knew exactly what he was doing. I could see through it totally. I think just the look on my face – he just saw that, and he knew he’d lost.

I then spent the next two hours telling him all about how I used to be non-Muslim, and how we used to hate the police, and I was giving him suggestions on how the police should be, not so arrogant and I was just going on and on and on, and he had to humour me and listen to me.

In the end he left and a little while later they came back and let me go.

I was detained for about six hours in all. I just felt like they were putting their feelers out.

They had put some strange folder on my phone

Luckily, I had reset my phone. Anyway, when I got my phone back, I could see they had done something to it, since there was an extra folder on it.

When I accessed different parts of my phone this strange folder came up. I realised after a while that the battery was just heating up and getting totally drained, and this was totally abnormal.

There was nothing I could do to get rid of this folder. Even restoring the phone to the factory settings and everything. I look after my technical devices and I know how they work.

Anyway, so I got rid of the phone shortly afterwards and I got a new one.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)