Surgeon accuses airport of racism after stopping when ‘white travelers waved through’

Professor Aali Sheen firmly believes he was the victim of racial triage at Manchester Airport security, but an investigation into the airport concluded that was not the case

Aali Schein
Professor Aali Sheen claims he was racially assaulted at Manchester Airport security

A surgeon claims he was racially assaulted when security at Manchester Airport told him to queue for a body scanner while white travelers were allegedly being ushered through a metal detector.

Professor Aali Sheen, who was traveling with two of his children, said he also saw a Muslim family asked to use the body scanner shortly after him.

“It was racist. It was clear racial triage,” he said Manchester evening news.

The doctor has since lodged a complaint and an investigation found the reason he was told to use the body scanner was to “maintain the required body scanner/metal detector ratio” required by government policy.

A spokesman said: “All policies and procedures … have been followed.”

The married Pakistani hereditary counselor surgeon from Didsbury, who works at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and is President of the British Hernia Society, described how he was involved in a confrontation with a security guard in Terminal 1 on April 3 before a flight to Grenoble to go skiing for the trip him and two of his three children.

Prof Sheen says he queued for two hours before finally making it through security for his 8am flight. He said a security guard directed him to a line at the body scanner, although the smaller archway metal detector was clear and operational.

Manchester Airport conducted an investigation and concluded that Prof Sheen was not a victim of racial triage


Rosie Davis)

He described how he began questioning the man after the officer told him “you have to go there” and led him into the body scanner queue.

The surgeon said, “I said ‘why?’ and he said, “Because we have a system.” I asked, “What system is that?” I challenged him, I knew the reason, it was obvious, to me it was obvious.

“He said, ‘Just do what you’re told.’ He was really rude to me and I said ‘don’t talk to me like that’ I have to go through.

He started arguing with me. I said to him, ‘Don’t react with me – I’m the customer. I know you’re a security guard, but I think you’re being disrespectful to me.

“And then when I gathered my bags and looked back, I saw an obviously Muslim family and they all went through the same scanner as me. They were directed there by the same person. It was just wrong. At the same time other people, shall I say Anglo-Saxons, were being passed through the small scanner.

Manchester Airport


MEN media)

“It was racist. It was a clear racist sighting. I didn’t have to go through that big scanner. At the smaller scanner, nobody was there. I could have walked through there. I had to go through the big scanner. Why? It was clearly racial targeting. I’m shocked. If I did that as a doctor, I would be fired. I would lose my job.”

Briton Prof Sheen, who grew up on a council estate in south London, has written a book, The Painted Surgeon, chronicling his experiences of racism, including once being stopped as a “suspect” character by US immigrants en route to a conference was in San Francisco. His parents moved to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s.

Prof Sheen wrote an official complaint to Manchester Airport after he landed in Grenoble and Manchester airport officials launched an investigation. Initially receiving no response, the paramedic contacted his MP, Withington Representative Jeff Smith, who wrote to the airport, and officials promised to escalate the complaint.

On May 27, the doctor received an official reply from an airport official who apologized for the delay and said: “I am sorry to learn that your experience in our security search area was below the standard that we expect our client to receive , and I apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused.”

The officer told Prof Sheen he appeared to accept that he “voluntarily entered the walk-in metal detector, which unfortunately is against the rules and regulations laid down for us by the UK Civil Aviation Authority”.

He added: “We need to maintain the required balance of body scanner and metal detector usage, which explains why there was a body scanner queue while the metal detector queue remained vacant. On that basis, it was correct that our security member asked you to go to the body scanner for a secondary check.”

A Manchester Airport spokesman told MEN: “We take all allegations of racism incredibly seriously and this matter was fully investigated in May when the passenger contacted our customer feedback team. We are satisfied that all guidelines and procedures set out by the government have been followed.”

The spokesperson did not want to go into the details of security procedures, but it is understood that body scanners are considered by government policy to be “primary scanning devices” and are therefore used more often than other types of scanners such as archway metal detectors.

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