Laolu Opebiyi, a Nigerian man, was sent off a British plane by armed policemen at Luton airport after a passenger read a message on his phone about “prayer” and reported him as a security threat.

The 40-year-old said he was forced to hand over his phone and supply his password in order to establish his innocence after he tried to arrange a conference call prayer with friends using WhatsApp.

Opebiyi was cleared by a detective, but the pilot refused to allow him back on to the easyJet flight to Amsterdam.

Opebiyi, a Nigerian-born Christian, told the UK Guardian that the passenger next to him assumed he was a Muslim and jumped to the conclusion that he may be a terrorist.

“That guy doesn’t know me and within two minutes he’s judging me. Even if I was a Muslim, it was pretty unfair the way I was treated. I don’t think anyone, irrespective of their religion should be treated in such a way,” he said.

“If we keep on giving into this kind of bigotry and irrational fear, I dare say that the terrorists will have achieved their aim.”

The passenger was said to be reading his phone over his shoulder, before alerting security that he was chatting with friends about prayer.

The passenger who reported Opebiyi got off the plane, saying he was not feeling to well.

Minutes later, two armed officers entered the plane, asked Opebiyi for his phone and told him to remove his belongings and accompany them off the plane and into the terminal building.

He explained to the armed men that he is a Christian, showing them the Bible in his bag and telling them the Church he attends.

They also asked him about the name of the conference call prayer group, which was “ISI men” – an acronym for “iron sharpens iron”, from the Bible quote “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.

The passenger who reported Opebiyi may have misread “ISI men” as “ISIS”, an acronym for Islamic State.

Opebiyi feared he would be placed on a terrorist watchlist, one of the passengers for the next flight said if “he is on the next flight, I am not getting on the flight”.

“Someone felt I was a terrorist because they saw the word ‘prayer’ on my phone and now I stand in uncertainty about my freedom of movement in and out of the United Kingdom,” he said.

An easyJet spokesman said: “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passenger.”

The Nigerian man is also a British citizen and a business analyst.



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