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Daily Mail apologizes for saying that terror ties prevented Muslim family from visiting Disneyland

The Mail Online, a website of the British tabloid Daily Mail, has apologized for running columns accusing a Muslim family of being extremists after they were denied entry to the U.S. last year for a Disneyland vacation.

Two columns by Katie Hopkins suggested that Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother, Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, were extremists with links to Al Qaeda.

Last December, Hopkins wrote that the family’s stated reason for visiting California — to visit Disneyland — was a lie and that the Department of Homeland Security was right to prevent them from boarding their flight.

About two weeks later, Hopkins wrote in another column that Hamza Mahmood, Mohammed Tariq Mahmood’s son, was responsible for a Facebook page that allegedly contained extremist material.

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“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 email address,” the Mail Online said in its public apology.

The site said it has agreed to pay “substantial damages” totaling 150,000 British pounds to the Mahmood family. Hopkins also tweeted an apology on Monday at 2 a.m.

“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.”

U.S. authorities barred the Mahmood family from boarding a flight to Los Angeles from London’s Gatwick airport last year. At the time, Department of Homeland Security 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.

The family was then told they would not be refunded cost of their flights — about $13,000 — and they had to return everything they purchased from airport’s duty-free shops, the OC Weekly reported.

The case prompted senior politicians to respond, including Labor Party lawmaker Stella Creasy, who warned that British Muslims were increasingly being denied entry to the U.S. without being told why. She pointed to policies suggested by President-elect Donald Trump — then one of many Republican presidential hopefuls — including his call to ban Muslims from entering the country.

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On Monday, Creasy tweeted Hopkins’ apology.

“Don’t often share Katie Hopkins messages but do feel this late night tucked away one should be given more prominence,” she wrote.

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 explain why they were not permitted to travel.

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“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.”

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

For more California news follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini

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