China Travel Log – Day 1 – TWM Travelling While Muslim
Alhumdullilah I arrived safe and well in Shanghai, the journey though was an arduous
Prior to departing, the one nagging doubt at the back of my mind is always the
projected hassles associated with flying. The post 911 phenomenon of TWM
(Travelling Whilst Muslim) means that I know that I’m going to get a tougher time
than most people do at security and immigration, one my co-travellers laughed off at
my expense, telling me that I was too paranoid.
Well, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they are not out to get
Once I had cleared security, minus my belt and shoes, looking less than
composed as I struggled to walk whilst hoisting up my jeans from avoiding having
them end up around my ankles, I was approached by a slender looking woman. She
announced she was with airport security, and if I would answer a few questions.
"Yes of course" I hurriedly replied, as I was putting my belt back through the loops
on my jeans. She asked for my passport and asked my name, luckily for me I was
clever enough to remember my own name and passed the first part of the test, before
she went on about where I was going, although she had my boarding card in her hand,
and whether I had a visa, again stamped in my passport.
I don’t know whether they ask these rudimentary questions just to confirm what they
know, or if they are really stupid, or if it’s just a wind up, or perhaps they are just naturally born wind up artists, delivering their lines with the deadline acerbic wit of an american who doesn’t get irony. By this time my travelling colleagues had noticed that I was being questioned and decided to walk back to see if they could help out….more fool him!
"Everything alright?" one of them asked, next thing you know the woman switched
her attention onto him, and began with the same line of questioning.
So after the pair of us had satisfactorily answered her questions, we got a move on,
my colleague looked at me with the you were right all along sort of look, I nodded
and shrugged, "you’ve just been racially profiled, ain’t it a beautiful thing" we both laughed as we walked towards the boarding gate.
The flight itself was fine, it seems it’s become a standard operating procedure to
ensure that everyone remains seated for as long as possible. No longer where we in
the air, that drinks were being served, than a snack, then a meal, I had the feeling I
was a turkey being fattened up for Christmas.
Seven hours later we landed in the humidity of Doha, where we would be in transit
for a couple of hours. The heat was overwhelming, stepping out onto the tarmac
where it was upwards of 30C was a bit of a shock to the system. Once inside the
airport the air con soon had me feeling a bit better. Getting myself a cold drink, I sat
down, on the next table were these four American mercenaries, I mean contractors. It
wasn’t hard to tell, two of them had special forces tattoo’s on their arms, and all of
them were wearing danners and dogtags.
Broadcasting their conversation to the world, the four of them were bragging about
their "tour", the money they had made, and how stupid the A-Rabs were.
I agreed on the last comment.
Cutting them a dirty look, I got up and began to walk to my gate that had been announced over the tannoy. Before long, I would be in the air heading to Shanghai.
I always keep a couple of books with me when I travel, I picked up a copy of Frankie
Boyle’s autobiography, "My Shit Life So Far", a bit different to my usual reading matter, but as previous journeys have taught me, it can prove troublesome to carry books on certain topics, especially when you know your carryon is going to be searched. Getting a few pages into the book, Frankie talks about how he was censored by the BBC;
"Amusingly, amidst all the horror of the world, I was censured this year for daring to
make a joke about Israel. I think it was ‘I’ve been studying Israeli army martial arts, I
now know sixteen ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back’ I was pulled up
about this as civilians were being killed by Israeli troops in Gaza. This was on a show
called Political Animal on Radio 4. That’s where producers like to focus the edginess
in their shows into the title. But what I find incredible is that the Israelis say they can
build housing in the West Bank because the Palestinians weren’t productive enough
with it. So if a bunch of occupiers start building flats on your patio, you only have
yourself to blame.?
I think I’m going to like reading this book.
Nine hours later and with a bump and a screech of the tyres we were in China. While
on the flight I was given a disembarkment form to complete. The Chinese seemed to
be pretty strict on wanting to know about people’s movements. This form was handed
over to the immigration control, who took forever to process me through the
system, apparently I didn’t look like my picture on my passport, and when you’ve
been travelling for the last 18 hours and have had no sleep, you can understand I was
in no mood for small talk. With a disdainful look on my face, I explained that there
was no problem with the passport and that all my paperwork was in order. It didn’t
help matters, in fact it seemed to make it worse.
The woman behind the counter hit a button and what I’m guessing was her supervisor
magically appeared. I say magically because when you have had 6 hours sleep in the
last 48 hours, you can be forgiven for seeing things appear and disappear.
15 minutes later, and after viewing my passport through a microscope I was allowed
to go. Great first experience of China!
My only thought now was to get to the hotel and get some sleep, and that’s precisely
what I did, after a quick shower, I hit the sheets and was knocked out.
Also my suspicions have been confirmed – the great fire wall of china is in full effect mode – thankfully I planned for this eventuality and am publishing this direct via email.
Ha ha, you cannot stop "The Akh"
Please do remember me in your Duah’s.
Jazak Allah Khair