As ex-fireman and former member of the Household Cavalry, 67 year old David Jones,
passed through Gatwick Airport last sunday, en route to Portugal with his two daughters, he said he experienced an "Orwellian nightmare" when he :
* approached security after a Muslim passenger ahead of him, who had her face almost completely covered by a hijab, had passed through without showing her face.
* was asked to remove the scarf he was wearing round his neck and after placing it and other belongings into a tray to pass through the X-ray scanner, said to an official :
"If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen ?"
* was, to his astonishment, stopped by a member of the security staff on the other side of the checkpoint who was joined by another who was a Muslim who was "deeply distressed" by his comment and was asked how he would feel if labelled a 'drunken old duffer' ?
* denied his remark had been racist and was then joined by a British Airways duty manager who sided with the security staff.
* asked for a police officer and when he arrived, demanded that he should be arrested if there was a case against him and was told : "that we now live in a different time and some things are not to be said".
* had the matter eventually resolved when he agreed his remarks ‘could’ have been regarded as offensive.
"What I said had nothing to do with the woman’s religion. It was the fact that her face was covered and she seemed to have passed through that part of the security process without showing it".
" I was adamant I was not going to apologise because I had done nothing wrong."
"Something like George Orwell’s 1984 now seems to have arrived in Gatwick airport. I feel my rights as an individual have been violated. What I underwent amounts to intimidation and detention. I am not opposed to having this level of security but it must be equal for all."
P.S. Department for Transport rules do not prevent people covering their faces at airports for religious reasons, although all passengers must show their faces to UK Border officials at passport control.
David created the character for children, 'Fireman Sam' with a fellow fireman when they worked at Clerkenwell Fire Station in London.
Britain's old men say to David, who lives in and runs a restaurant in Portugal :
" Stay in the Algarve Dave. Britain is no country for old men like you and your old fashioned gibes, once construed as having an 'ironic sense of humour'."