Little Green Footballs

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Have beard and Cagoul will travel

Here's a interview with the two "jihadis" unmasked by passengers on the Monarch flight to Manchester.

THESE are the two innocent Asian students kicked off a jet because other passengers feared they were terrorists.

Friends Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb, both 22, said last night they were stunned that anybody could think they were suicide bombers.

And they insisted they were just a couple of ordinary lads who wanted a bit of fun on a day trip to Malaga.

Sohail - who was marched off the Monarch flight to Manchester at gunpoint - said: "My first reaction was to laugh when I was told why we had been taken off the plane. Then I realised they were deadly serious."

Despite their ordeal, the pair do not blame the paranoid passengers.

Fforgiving Sohail said yesterday: "These are nervous times and I can understand why people are so panicked.

"All I would say is, 'Don't be paranoid. Don't judge every book by its cover'.

"We might be Asian, but we're two ordinary lads who wanted a bit of fun.

"Just because we're Muslim, does not mean we are suicide bombers."

Khurram added: "I don't blame anyone for what happened. Actually I feel sorry for the people who thought we were terrorists."

The fun-loving pair visited the Spanish resort for a quick recce ahead of a proper holiday later in the year.

They are so far removed from extremism that they even spent the day boozing and tucking into a McDonald's burger.

Khurram admitted: "As Muslims we are not supposed to drink alcohol, but we did have a few."


The pair, studying for degrees at Manchester's Umist institution, believe the scare was sparked by an elderly lady sitting nearby.

Khurram said: "We were chatting away in Urdu and she kept looking at us.

"At first I didn't really take any notice. I just thought perhaps she'd never seen an Asian person before."

Sohail added: "She had to move to let us sit down and I knew straight away that something was bothering her.

"I tried my best to ignore her but she started asking me questions like where we lived and how long we had been in Malaga.

"When I told her we had only gone for the day she became even more suspicious. She kept saying that was a strange thing to do.

"Suddenly she got up and walked toward the cockpit."


The friends deny claims they were wearing heavy leather jackets which aroused suspicion. They insist they merely had on light windcheaters, T-shirts and jeans.

But they were able to laugh off their nightmare in their hotel room . Sohail said: "We sat on our beds and Khurram said, 'You don't look like a terrorist'. I said, 'Neither do you'. Then we both collapsed with laughter.

"I suppose we were a bit hysterical. It all felt very odd.

"We've never experienced racism before so it was very unnerving."
I'm happy to see the two lads concerned took it so well. It's also interesting to see that, like the John Charles de Menezes case, original descriptions of dress and attitude seem a bit far off the mark.


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