Elham Asaad Buaras
A bearded Somali man who was thrown off a London bound coach in Bristol insists he was ejected because passengers were uncomfortable with his Muslim appearance.
42-year-old Ibrahim Ismail was forced to get off the National Express bus and pay £56 for a return train ticket just after paying £25 for his first ticket because he says a passenger made a complaint to the driver that he “looking shifty”.
National Express insisted that the dispute centred on complaints from customers about Ismail’s “bulky luggage” an explanation two other passengers have since strongly contradicted.
A spokesman for National Express said “when Ismail was asked to store the luggage in the hold he refused and walked out of the coach station.”
However, Ismail said: “The driver didn’t have an issue with my luggage because we had a conversation about it and he allowed me on.
“I was asked to leave because of the way I was dressed, and the fact I’ve got a beard. Everybody could see it was because I’m a Muslim.”
Ismail boarded the coach with a big rucksack and two smaller sling bags.
The driver had initially asked him to put his big rucksack – which contained a computer printer – in the hold under the bus.
However, he was reluctant to do so as he was worried his printer may break and jeopardise his work. “I told the driver I would take the small blue bag and put the biggest bag in the hold. I agreed with him on that.”
He added: “There were two seats empty and I sat down somewhere in the middle of the bus. The seats were both empty and the bus was still quite empty.
“If there was a customer, I would have kept my bags under my legs and put my printer on my laps. But as the bus engine was started, someone from customer services came up to me and the driver said I had to get out. He said he would call security – he was already outside the bus.”
Other passengers corroborated Ismail’s version of events. Rebekah Makinde said she was “truly appalled” by the behaviour of a fellow passenger.
“As soon as he got on the coach, the women at the front were just silent and staring at him,” she said.
“They were making their feelings very obvious. As soon as the man sat down, one of the women went to speak to the driver. Another member of staff then came on and asked the man to get off.”
“He didn’t protest or anything, he just got off. What disgusted me the most was that someone actually thanked the woman after he left.”
Makinde, 21, rubbished the driver’s claim Ismail was evicted due to luggage problems, calling the explanation “ridiculous”.
She added: “Everyone had luggage with them on the coach, I had bags and my laptop on my seat next to me and nobody said anything about that.
“The coach wasn’t busy and there were plenty of free seats. It was only when the woman raised her concerns about the man saying she felt uncomfortable that he was asked to leave.
“I understand that drivers want their passengers to feel comfortable. But not if it stems from someone’s unfounded and Islamophobic beliefs and at the expense of another paying passenger. ”
Fellow passenger Nick McDonald, added: “I heard the group of women at the front of the coach say he looked shifty.
“She got off the coach to make a complaint and the next thing a man wearing a National Express vest got on and asked him to get off. If the man was carrying too many bags, why was he allowed to board the coach in the first place? ”