Christian removed from EasyJet flight over 'prayer' message on his phone

A Christian has been removed from an EasyJet flight.Reuters

A Christian has been removed from an EasyJet flight after a passenger saw a WhatsApp message on his phone and thought he might be a terrorist.

Londoner Laolu Opebiyi, 40, was aboard a flight waiting to take off from Luton Airport to Amsterdam last Thursday when he was ordered off by security officials who asked him if he was converting to Islam.

His accuser, who may have misread what he saw as a reference to ISIS, asked him, "What do you mean by prayer?" before walking to the cockpit and asking to leave the plane. Six other passengers also left.

Opebiyi was asked to leave the plane by two armed officers who questioned him about his faith and which church he attended and asked him if he was thinking of converting to Islam.

He told the Guardian: "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.

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

He said the passenger might have misunderstood a reference to the WhatsApp group ISI on his phone – short for 'Iron Sharpens Iron'.

When he returned to the EasyJet desk, seven other travellers refused to fly. One said: "If he is on the next flight, I am not getting on the flight." He eventually took a flight four hours later.

Opebiyi now fears he may be on a terrorist watch list. He said: "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 UK."

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."