I was in New York the other week on a weekend trip to see a dance company.
I flew out on Thursday, and flew back on Sunday. That's four times I passed through an airport in four days.
Guess how many times I was pulled out of the queue for "random" security checks in those four days?
Three out of a possible four.
There were 16 on the trip and I was the only one in the group with a surname like "Ahad".
Three times, the other 15 had to stand on the other side of security waiting for me to come through. I guess they (all of whom looked "English" – although one was Welsh, one Scottish and one Irish) were lucky in escaping the "random" extra security checks.
The first time I got pulled to one side was in Heathrow as I went to the boarding gate.
According to the person manning the desk, my name was on a list.
He didn't specify what he meant, but on the phone to his supervisors he said "Ahad" had come up on the list and I was subjected to further checks.
I didn't mind taking my belt off. Or taking my shoes off, or emptying my bag out or being swept with a metal detector (although I'd done all that at the security gate, just like everyone else, 15 minutes earlier).
No, what I really minded was that it was done to me while the 15 others I was travelling with stood 10 feet away. That was kind of embarrassing.
In New York, I was randomly selected again as I went through passport control and had to sit in a separate room before an immigration official took me off for questioning.
After 20 minutes of questions about where I was born, my nationality (I thought the red passport emblazoned with "United Kingdom" was a dead giveaway, but apparently not to US immigration officials) and my inside leg measurement (not really, but I might as well have been asked) I was allowed to rejoin my group – not one of whom had been randomly selected for questions at immigration.
Fortunately, I'm a jolly sort of chap and all of this was brushed off with a laugh between myself and my companions. Indeed, I'd made a joke about it with the leader of the expedition the day before we left – something along the lines of "with my surname we could be in for a long wait at the airport". Ho ho.
The definition of random in the dictionary on my desk is "done without method or conscious choice", or "having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective".
Leaving New York was the most humiliating of the three times I was stopped. I handed in my boarding ticket, the official in front of me circled my surname and called someone over. I was led from the group and into a glass room.
Fairly fed up by this time at the way I was being randomly selected (see the definition above), but nowhere near brave enough to show defiance, I decided instead to show insolence, and slumped into a chair. That was until a policeman, New York's finest I believe is the phrase, came into the room and whistled at me to stand up. Yes, literally whistled.
This guy took his job seriously. I think I've actually got a bruise from where he "patted me down" and it was seriously humiliating to have to put everything back into my bag while trying to put my belt back on, being watched by the people walking straight through the security gate.
Back at Heathrow, I was almost annoyed that I didn't get selected for extra checks again – I'd spent the seven hour flight back preparing a speech in my best posh voice.
Now, I know that many of you have different life experiences to my own. You might think that someone with brown skin and a foreign-sounding surname like mine ought to be subjected to extra checks at airport security.
After all, that's what the bombers on September 11, or July 7 here, looked like.
As Irwin says in Alan Bennett's The History Boys: "The loss of liberty is the price we pay for freedom."
Well, how come it's only people that look like me who are footing the bill?
It's almost a decade since the September 11 attacks on New York, five since the July 7 suicide bombings that were plotted here in Yorkshire.
Yet still people who look like me are being routinely subjected to this kind of humiliating experience. It's a microcosm, but being subjected to this kind of treatment is the first step that leads people to have moronic notions of hatred of the West.
I love my country and I love the fact that I'm a Yorkshireman. I've had the benefits of a wonderful education and loving parents who raised me to have aspirations and dreams. What happens if you take someone who hasn't had those benefits, someone who looks like me, and is subjected to the kind of accusatorial searches I had during four days in New York? It's not hard to recognise that situation as a breeding ground for potential trouble.
It is ultimately, obviously, because of the misguided, wicked, murderers of the September 11 and July 7 attacks that I was singled out and humiliated on three separate occasions.
The rash way I was picked out and the arrogance with which it was done, because of my brown skin and strange sounding surname, serves only to compound the feelings of alienation that leads some susceptible misguided people towards violence.