Muslim women who refused to take 'naked' full-body scan are barred from Manchester to Pakistan flight
By Daily Mail Reporter - 3rd March 2010
Two Muslim women have become the first passengers to refuse to subject themselves to controversial 'naked' full body airport scans, it emerged today.
The pair - who security officials insist were selected at random - opted to miss their flight to Pakistan and forfeit tickets worth £400 each rather than be screened.
One of the women refused to go through the full-body scanner at Manchester Airport on religious grounds while her companion also declined for 'medical reasons'.
The women were travelling together to Islamabad when they were selected to pass through the controversial security screen after checking-in at Terminal Two at the airport.
An estimated 15,000 people have already passed through the scanners, with the pair the first passengers to refuse a scan.
Both told airport staff they were not willing to be scanned. They were warned they would not be allowed to board the Pakistan International Airlines flight if they refused.
The pair decided they would rather forfeit their £400 tickets and left the airport with their luggage.
The £80,000 scanners were introduced at Heathrow and Manchester airports on February 5.
The X-ray machines allow security staff to see a 'naked' image of passengers to show up hidden weapons and explosives, but it has attracted criticism for also showing clear outlines of passengers' genitals.
Manchester Airport confirmed the passengers had refused to be scanned but said it had received no complaint from the women.
However, civil liberties campaigners say the incident could form the basis of a legal test case to challenge the use of the Rapiscan device in airports.
Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the organisation would represent the women if they wished to challenge the decision in court.
He said: 'People shouldn't have to sacrifice their health, their faith, their dignity, or their privacy in order to fly.
'People with health and religious concerns shouldn't be forced to go through these scanners if they have good reason not to. Foolishly, the government has ignored both issues and ignored privacy concerns to boot - they are in the wrong on this.'
There is one Rapiscan scanner in use in a trial at Manchester Airport's terminal two, which has seen 15,000 people pass through it.
A further two devices - one each for terminals one and three - have been delivered and are set to be operational within the next month.
The scanners have been criticised by the human rights group Liberty and the government's own Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Only selected passengers are scanned. Security staff say they are chosen at random and not according to race, religion or ethnicity.
Councillor Afzal Khan, who was Manchester's first Asian lord mayor, said the vast majority of Muslims believed that any privacy concerns should be outweighed by ensuring they are safe when flying.
He said: 'Hundreds of Muslim passengers have gone through without a problem. While I appreciate people's concerns for privacy, these steps are necessary for our safety and security.'
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: 'Two female passengers who were booked to fly out of Terminal Two refused to be scanned for medical and religious reasons.
'In accordance with the government directive on scanners, they were not permitted to fly.
Last month, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis stressed that an interim code of practice on the use of body scanners stipulated that passengers would not be selected 'on the basis of personal characteristics' .
Two weeks ago, a week after the scanners were introduced at Manchester and Heathrow airports, Islamic scholars in the U.S. said Muslim travellers should not pass through the scanners because they violate religious rules on nudity.
The Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, warning Muslims not to go through the scanners.
‘It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women,’ read the order. ‘Islam highly emphasises haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.'
In the U.S., there are now 40 scanners in 19 airports and could be as many as 450 by the end of the year.
The powerful council of ten scholars that issued the fatwa is affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America.