British minister held at US airport

BRITAIN - A senior British government official, who is also Britain's first high-ranking Muslim minister, has said he was "disappointed" at being detained at a US airport.

BRITAIN - A senior British government official, who is also Britain's first high-ranking Muslim minister, has said he was "disappointed" at being detained at a US airport.

He said his hand luggage was analysed for traces of explosive materials.

Shahid Malik, 39, who is an under-secretary of state in the department of international development, made his comments after returning from Washington, where he was stopped at Dulles Airport on Sunday morning.

Malik is also the elected parliamentarian for Dewsbury, in Yorkshire, a region with a large Muslim population.

He has been intricately involved in government efforts to stop young British Muslims from sliding into terrorism. He has also spoken out against some of the government's anti-terrorism measures.

Malik said he was searched and detained by the department of homeland security - the same department whose representatives he had been meeting on his visit to the US to discuss terrorism and security.

"After a few minutes a couple of other people were also taken to one side. We were all Muslims, the other two were black Muslims, both with Muslim names," he said yesterday.

Malik said he was annoyed because a similar thing happened to him last year, when he was detained for an hour at New York's John F. Kennedy airport by the DHS.

This was despite the fact he had been a keynote speaker at an event organised by the department, alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Muslim organisations in New York.

After his latest detention, which lasted 40 minutes, Malik said: "I am deeply disappointed. The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave.

"But I really do believe British ministers and parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at US airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the senate and congress.

"Obviously no malice was involved, but it had to be said that the US system does not inspire confidence." - Sapa-dpa

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