A Christian who was texting friends about prayer was removed from an easyJet flight because another passenger believed he was a terrorist.
Laolu Opebiyi was using WhatsApp, an online messaging app, to communicate with friends when armed police came on board and removed him from the flight at Luton airport.
The prayer group was called “ISI men” a reference to the biblical proverb ‘iron sharpens iron’ (Proverbs 27:17).
However, it has been reported that another passenger thought it was referring to Islamic State.
The passenger quizzed Opebiyi about the prayer messages and raised the issue with cabin crew.
Opebiyi was questioned by police who asked him what church he attended and whether he had ever considered converting to Islam.
Eventually he was cleared, with the police officer involved expressing sympathy for his situation. easyJet has apologised for “any inconvenience caused”.
Opebiyi had to wait for nearly four hours until he flew out, and another passenger reportedly said: “If he is on the next flight, I am not getting on”.
Opebiyi told The Guardian that he was taken aback by the actions of the passenger who complained: “That guy doesn’t know me and within two minutes he’s judging me”.
He added: “Even if I was a Muslim, it was pretty unfair the way I was treated. I don’t think anyone, irrespective of their religion should be treated in such a way.”
On his return, Opebiyi was disrupted again when he had to speak to an immigration officer before being able to go through a passport gate.
He said: “Someone felt I was a terrorist because they saw the word ‘prayer’ on my phone and now I stand in uncertainty about my freedom of movement in and out of the United Kingdom”.
Bedfordshire Police said that officers had taken someone off the flight, but “were satisfied that there was no concern around the passenger travelling”.
An easyJet spokesman stated: “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passenger.”