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TourismNewspaper apologizes for saying terror links prevented U.K. Muslim family from going to Disneyland

Published 21 December 2016

The Mail Online, the Web site of the British newspaper Daily Mail, has issued an apology for running stories depicting a Muslim family as extremists, after family members were denied entry to the United States last year for a vacation in Disneyland. Two articles by Mail reporter Katie Hopkins suggested that Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother, Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, were extremists with links to al Qaeda.The Mail Online has agreed to pay “substantial damages” totaling £150,000 to the Mahmood family. Hopkins also tweeted an apology on Monday.

The Mail Online, the Web site of the British newspaper Daily Mail, has issued an apology for running stories depicting a Muslim family as extremists, after family members were denied entry to the United States last year for a vacation in Disneyland.

Two articles by Mail reporter Katie Hopkins suggested that Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother, Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, were extremists with links to al Qaeda.

Middle East Eye reports that last December, Hopkins wrote that the reason the family gave for visiting California — visit Disneyland — was a lie, and that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was right to instruct the airline not to allow the brothers to board the plane to the United States.

Two weeks later, Hopkins wrote that Hamza Mahmood, Mohammed Tariq Mahmood’s son, was behind a Facebook page which supposedly contained extremist material.

“Our article included a photo of the family home. Hamza Mahmood has pointed out that he is not responsible for the Facebook page, which was linked to him as a result of an error involving his e-mail address,” the Mail Online said in its public apology

The Mail Online has agreed to pay “substantial damages” totaling £150,000 to the Mahmood family. Hopkins also tweeted an apology on Monday.

“We are happy to make clear that Tariq Mahmood and Zahid Mahmood are not extremists, nor do they have links to Al Qaeda,” the Mail said. “They were travelling to the USA with their families to see one of their brothers for a holiday in California and they had indeed planned to visit Disneyland as part of their trip.”

Last year, DHS instructed the airline not to allow the Mahmood family to boarding a flight to Los Angeles from London’s Gatwick airport last year. At the time, DHS officials did not provide an explanation for why the family of 11 was not allowed to fly out although they had been granted travel authorization online, according to the Guardian (see “San Bernardino mosque may be reason for barring British Muslim family from entering U.S.,” HSNW, 24 December 2015).

OC Weeklyreported that the family was told by the airline that they would not be receiving a refund for their flights — about $13,000 — and that they had to return everything they purchased from airport’s duty-free shops.

In a statement, the family said they are “very pleased that, after a great deal of dragging of their heels, the Mail and Ms. Hopkins have now accepted that what they published was completely false.”

The family said U.S. officials have yet to contact them to explain why family members were not permitted to travel.

“We assume it was an error or even a case of mistaken identity,” they said. “However, matters are not helped when such sensationalist and, frankly, Islamophobic articles such as this are published, and which caused us all a great deal of distress and anxiety. We are very pleased that the record has been set straight.”