Two Muslim women have become the first passengers to refuse to subject themselves to controversial 'naked' full body airport scans, it emerged today.
The pair ~ who security officials insist were selected at random ~ opted to miss their flight to Pakistan and forfeit tickets worth £400 each rather than be screened.
One of the women refused to go through the full-body scanner at Manchester Airport on religious grounds while her companion also declined for 'medical reasons'.
The women were traveling together to Islamabad when they were selected to pass through the controversial security screen after checking-in at Terminal Two at the airport.
An estimated 15,000 people have already passed through the scanners, with the pair the first passengers to refuse a scan.
The pair decided they would rather forfeit their £400 tickets and left the airport with their luggage. The £80,000 scanners were introduced at Heathrow and Manchester airports on February 5.
The X-ray machines allow security staff to see a 'naked' image of passengers to show up hidden weapons and explosives, but it has attracted criticism for also showing clear outlines of passengers' genitals.
Manchester Airport confirmed the passengers had refused to be scanned but said it had received no complaint from the women.
Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the organization would represent the women if they wished to challenge the decision in court.
'People with health and religious concerns shouldn't be forced to go through these scanners if they have good reason not to. Foolishly, the government has ignored both issues and ignored privacy concerns to boot ~ they are in the wrong on this.'
A further two devices ~ one each for terminals one and three ~ have been delivered and are set to be operational within the next month.
The scanners have been criticized by the human rights group Liberty and the government's own Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Only selected passengers are scanned. Security staff say they are chosen at random and not according to race, religion or ethnicity.
Councilor Afzal Khan, who was Manchester's first Asian lord mayor, said the vast majority of Muslims believed that any privacy concerns should be outweighed by ensuring they are safe when flying.
He said: 'Hundreds of Muslim passengers have gone through without a problem. While I appreciate people's concerns for privacy, these steps are necessary for our safety and security.'
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: 'Two female passengers who were booked to fly out of Terminal Two refused to be scanned for medical and religious reasons.
'In accordance with the government directive on scanners, they were not permitted to fly.
'Body scanning is a big change for customers and we are aware that privacy concerns are on our customers' minds, which is why we have put strict procedures in place to reassure them that their privacy will be protected.'
Last month, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis stressed that an interim code of practice on the use of body scanners stipulated that passengers would not be selected 'on the basis of personal characteristics'.
Two weeks ago, a week after the scanners were introduced at Manchester and Heathrow airports, Islamic scholars in the U.S. said Muslim travelers should not pass through the scanners because they violate religious rules on nudity.
The Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, warning Muslims not to go through the scanners.
‘It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women,’ read the order.
‘Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.'
In the U.S., there are now 40 scanners in 19 airports and could be as many as 450 by the end of the year.
The powerful council of ten scholars that issued the fatwa is affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America.