Mohammad Tariq Mahmood and his family were probably prevented from boarding a plane to Disneyland at Gatwick airport last week because a Facebook page linked to his address contained positive references to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and because his brother was previously prevented from entering Israel, according to this CBS News report, which cites a US Department of Homeland Security official as a source.
There is no indication that any member of the Walthamstow, London-based Mahmood family has done anything illegal.
ITV News, which first reported the Facebook links, said the page appeared to be a joke. Mahmood gave a quote to ITV that indicated he had no clue about the Facebook page:
The account, in the name of Hamza Hussain, lists the job titles “supervisor at Taliban and leader at al-Qaeda” – suggesting it may have been published as a joke.
Asked about the account, Mr Mahmood – whose son’s name is also Hamza – said hackers may be to blame, adding: “That could be anything, maybe a mistake.”
Airports have famous, long-standing security rule: Don’t joke about bombs or terrorism. Jokes about bombs will be treated as security threats.
CBS also said, “A DHS source tells CBS News that one of the brothers was refused entry into Israel two years ago.” The BBC reported that UK officials stopped the family from boarding after they received a call from Washington, D.C.
Mahmood’s sister-in-law, Sadaf Mahmood, told London’s LBC that one member of her family had previously been detained in Israel.
Ms Mahmood also dismissed claims her husband had previously been arrested in Israel, claiming the incident had been blown out of proportion.
Mahmood Zahid Mahmood also said he had been refused entry to Israel eight years ago. He and another man remained at the airport before returning on a flight two days later. He added that he was not held for eight days, as had previously been reported.
Mahmood has spent some time this week talking to the media, suggesting that his family were singled out because they have a Muslim name. But if you look at this from the point of view of airport security — travellers with a pro-terrorist Facebook page and an odd record in Israel — you can see why officials might err on the side of caution.