Black British businessman is removed from flight over ‘prayer’ message on his phone

Sunday March 13 2016

An EastJet plane. A black British businessman was removed from flight to Amsterdam over ‘prayer’ message on his phone. PHOTO | AFP

An EastJet plane. A black British businessman was removed from flight to Amsterdam over ‘prayer’ message on his phone. PHOTO | AFP 

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It is often suggested that the terrorists will win not by blowing up things and decapitating innocent people, but by sowing suspicion and hatred among their target society. A recent incident at Luton airport suggests that could indeed be true.

A black British man was removed from an EasyJet flight to Amsterdam by armed police after a fellow passenger read a message on his mobile phone and reported him as a security threat.

Nigerian-born Laolu Opebiyi, 40, from London, said he was using WhatsApp to arrange a conference call prayer with other Christian friends as his plane waited to depart. Their group is named “ISI” or Iron Sharpens Iron from the Bible quote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17).

The passenger sitting next to him asked, “What do you mean by prayer?” then went to the front of the plane. Shortly after, two armed police asked Opebiyi for his phone and removed him from the plane.

The passenger apparently assumed Opebiyi was a Muslim and mistook the acronym ISI for Isis. Said Opebiyi later: “This guy doesn’t know me and within two minutes he is judging me. If we keep on giving in to this kind of bigotry and irrational fear, I dare say that the terrorists will have achieved their aim.”

Opebiyi, a business analyst, told police he was a Christian and showed them the bible in his bag. Eventually, they said he was cleared, but the pilot refused to allow him back on the flight and he was forced to wait three hours for the next departure.

Now Opebiyi fears he is on a terrorist watch list because when he returned the next day, the electronic passport gate did not let him through and he had to speak to an immigration officer.

He said, “Someone saw the word ’prayer’ on my phone and now I’m uncertain about my freedom of movement.”

In Britain day to day, I can’t say I ever notice any racism. Where you can find it, apparently, is in the seat of our democracy, Parliament.
Dawn Butler, a black MP, says she has encountered many examples. She was once in an elevator marked “MPs ONLY” when another MP told her, “This lift really isn’t for cleaners.” Another time she was in part of the House of Commons reserved for MPs when she was challenged by a Member about her right to be there. When she explained she was the Member of Parliament for Brent Central, he remarked, “They’re letting anybody in nowadays.”
Ayesha Hazarika, a Labour party adviser, found that remark depressing but not surprising. “You are more likely to see a black or Asian face serving your food or cleaning your office than standing up in the Chamber,” she said.


Statistically at least, things are improving. Thirty years ago, there were only four non-white MPs out of more than 600. Today there are 42, an increase from 0.6 per cent to 6.6 per cent, but still not representative of the country at large, where 12.8 per cent of the population is non-white.

Last year, in response to concerns that female and ethnic minority MPs experience discrimination in Parliament, Speaker John Bercow commissioned an investigation into “inequality and gender insensitivities at Westminster,” and called for a suggested process of reform. The report is due in the next few months.

A daughter suffocated her ailing father with a plastic bag, claiming it was part of a failed suicide pact. But a jury unanimously found her guilty of murder.

Claire Derbyshire, 36, of Dagenham, Essex, said her father, Brian, 67, had “intolerable” multiple sclerosis. She had become his full-time carer when he became bed-ridden in 2014.

Claire told the court she agreed with her father that they would kill themselves because of his condition. However, jurors heard that he had never expressed suicidal thoughts or complained about pain to nurses who visited him.

Police found Mr Derbyshire’s body eight days after death, in bed, dressed in a suit, with a note saying, “He asked me to help him end it.” Claire was found the evening after his death wandering around cliff tops in Kent, asking for help.

Sentencing will take place at a date to be announced.


I have the misfortune to support Newcastle United, the second worst football team in the English Premiership division. When I die, I will wear my Newcastle shirt so that God will know I’ve already been through Hell.


We are encouraged not to dwell on national characteristics, but all the talk about Europe brought this old chestnut to mind:
HEAVEN is where the cooks are French, the policemen English, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian and the bankers Swiss.

HELL is where the cooks are English, the policemen German, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss and the bankers Italian.