David Jones, the creator of the popular, animated children’s character Fireman Sam, was recently accused of racism and held by Gatwick Airport (United Kingdom) security for an hour. The situation, which Jones dubbs an “Orwellian nightmare,” occurred after he commented about a Muslim’s woman’s clothing.
After noticing how easily the woman, whose face was almost covered in its entirety (she was wearing a hijab), was able to get through the security process without showing her face, Jones, 67, commented, saying, “If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen.” It was this statement — a short quip — that landed him in hot water.
Here’s how the situation unfolded: When Jones entered the metal detector, his artificial hip apparently set off the alarm. He was subsequently searched and, though nothing was found, a security guard notified him that he was being detained because he had made an offensive comment. Jones, of course, maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
Once he made it to the other side of the checkpoint, officials allegedly accused him of racism. A Muslim security guard had purportedly overheard his comment and said that she was offended as a result. At this point, security staff, an airline administrator and a police officer spent the next hour trying to coerce Jones to apologize. He claims the group told him, “we now live in a different time and some things are not to be said.”
Although he has continued to defend himself against racist charges, in the end, he did admit that his comments “could” have been taken offensively and the incident was resolved. He was then able to rejoin his daughters, with whom he was traveling.
“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,” he claims. ”I was adamant I was not going to apologize because I had done nothing wrong.’
Jones, who believes his rights were trampled, is planning to lodge a complaint against the airport and against British Airways.
“Something like George Orwell’s 1984 now seems to have arrived in Gatwick airport. I feel my rights as an individual have been violated,” he explained. “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.”
A Gatwick Airport spokesman admitted that a woman who works in security was offended by Jones’ comments and that the “security team is looking at what happened to ensure the incident was handled in the right way.”
Fireman Sam is a famous cartoon series in the United Kingdom that Jones created with fellow fireman Dave Gingell. While both are now retired from their professions, the cartoon continues to be a major success in the children’s media world.
(H/T: Daily Mail)