What was a normal weekend city break turned out to have a little bit of a bizarre ending. We were on our way back to London on Sunday, September 11 evening, happy and tired after a long day of walking about the brilliant city of Rome. At the Rome airport, we went through the security, crossed through the metal detectors when the two officials nodded, smiled and asked me to step aside.
I thought it was strange that the security officials were interested in me as I hadn’t beeped as I went through the metal detectors. I turn around to pick up my bags from the belt, when a taller lady motioned me to a smaller enclosed area. At this point I got a little nervous as my husband had passed through the security without being stopped and I was left alone with the security woman in a small room.
She then asked me to take off my hijab.
She said that it was something that they have to do.
At this point I asked if I had beeped unknowingly, she replied, “No, we check everyone with the head covering.”
I told her that I have never been asked to take my hijab off at airports.
In the past, some security officers have patted on the head, but never have I been asked to take off the hijab.
I asked her how long had they this policy had been in place for? She said since 2012. However, I know of at least two relatives of mine who have been to Rome but have not been asked to remove their hijab.
After she had checked me – which was a quick 40 second check – she said I could put on my hijab. She pointed to a mirror that I hadn’t noticed and said I could use it to put on my hijab again. She then asked me what the head covering was called in English. I said hijab or headscarf would work equally well. She waited patiently while I put my scarf on again and was on my way.
In the course of the whole process, I never felt threatened but did feel singled out. I do not believe that “security” was the reason behind my unveiling. I believe the reason was simply because I am a Muslim woman, and that, is a very dangerous precedent.