A Swedish woman wearing a Muslim headscarf claims security staff at a small northern airport tugged on her hijab in public rather than take up her offer to take it off away from prying eyes.
“The female guard asked me ‘What’s on your head’,” recalled state employee Saama Sarsour, who told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper about her treatment at Arvidsjaur airport in northern Sweden.
After the metal detector beeped, Sarsour was asked to remove the cloth. She responded by asking if the guard could first scan the rest of her body and if she could remove her scarf in a different room, not in public. “Then the woman grabbed the scarf and started yanking it,” Sarsour told SvD. “I was totally shocked.”
Sarsour, who works for the social security agency Skatteverket, and her employer decided to report the female guard to the police, who quickly decided not to open an investigation into harassment.
Airport CEO Ralf Lundberg dodged the question of whether his staff had been taught about religious consideration when he spoke to the paper. “They did their job. All have gone through thorough education and training to make sure no one takes dangerous objects through security.”
The biggest airport company in Sweden, Swedavia, said it was run-of-the mill to frisk passengers in private, however. “It says in the penal code that frisking should take place in seclusion, that’s why we have separate rooms for this,” spokesman Klas Nilsson told SvD.
Other aviation experts said airport staff were free to be flexible and respond to customer’s wishes as long as it was within the rules.