National Express investigates claim of driver’s ‘racist and Islamophobic’ tirade

Student Yusra Ahmed alleges that she and three friends were barred from the coach in a row over whether they were bringing takeaway curry on board

  Yusra Ahmed     National Express has launched an investigation after a Muslim woman claimed she was racially abused by one of its bus drivers.

Student Yusra Ahmed, 20, alleges that she and three friends were subjected to a “racist and Islamophobic” tirade by a driver who barred them from a coach from Manchester to Leeds in a row over whether they were bringing takeaway curry on board.

Ahmed claims the students, three of whom were wearing headscarves, were initially targeted by the driver, a white woman, when she acted in a “hostile” way towards them as she inspected their tickets.

“She analysed each of our tickets and coach cards very closely, which is something we noticed she didn’t do to any of the other passengers,” said Ahmed, a Middle Eastern studies and politics student at Leeds University

The students claim the row began when they tried to board the coach carrying food in shopping bags and the driver insisted on searching them, apparently not believing they were carrying cold food they had no intention of eating on the journey.

“She then shouted quite loudly that we were not allowed to eat on the coach and that we had better not be taking ‘curry’ on to her coach,” Ahmed wrote in a Facebook post that has gone viral since she published it last week.

“I told her that we weren’t intending on eating on the coach, but she continued shouting to us about stinking up her coach with curry. We offered to give the takeaway food to the homeless outside and put the remainder of it in the luggage section, but she kept banging on about our ‘smelly curry food’.

“She was obviously targeting us out of her preconceived ideas about brown people. We were visibly Muslim so this made it easier for her.”

After complaining about the driver’s “charade of racist and presumptuous stereotypes”, Ahmed claims they were barred from travelling on the coach. She said a security guard asked her to apologise and threatened to report them.

The women eventually made it to Leeds after waiting two hours for the next coach. Yusra claims National Express failed to apologise or contact her within three days as promised.

Samera Hanif, 19, one of the women in the group, said: “We were disgusted with the way the complaint was dealt with. That’s when Yusra wrote her Facebook post to inform the public what happened and it went viral.”

Economics student Hanif said National Express only replied to their complaint after seeing the post. She said the company told her the driver admittedmaking the curry remarks. She claims National Express would only apologise for not letting them on the coach as this was against company policy, but would not apologise for the racist remarks as the company claimed independent witnesses said both parties were at fault.

Hanif said: “I found it really disgusting, intimidating and embarrassing because the whole coach station was staring. I’ve never been so angry before.

“I always board National Express to go home from uni. As soon as I started wearing a headscarf I found this was such a big issue. I think it’s an issue in the UK because if you read the comments the majority are saying it’s always Muslims who are having this issue,” she said.

The company offered a refund for their tickets, she said.

National Express said: “We take allegations of employee misconduct extremely seriously and a thorough investigation into the issues raised by this serious complaint has been undertaken by our senior management team.

“Our clear rules which set out the high standards expected of our professional drivers – as well as our customer service processes – have formed the framework of our investigation into this highly unusual complaint.

“We’re sorry this issue was not followed up to the customers’ satisfaction, and for the distress of those involved, and are committed to taking on board any lessons which could be learned.”


The Guardian

Fatima Achouri

Sociologue spécialiste de l’islam contemporain.

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