Ryanair boss slammed for suggesting defending profiling of Muslim men

24th Mar 2020
Ryanair boss slammed for suggesting defending profiling of Muslim men

(Credit: World Travel & Tourism Council/WikiCommons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The CEO of low-cost Irish airline Ryanair has been widely condemned in the UK and Ireland for ‘abhorrent’ remarks after recommending Muslim men should be profiled at airports to prevent terrorism.

Michael O’Leary’s failed to elaborate on how security would tell what a Muslim looks like and was slammed for “encouraging racism” with his “blinkered” view.

“Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males traveling on their own,” said the 58-year-old Irishman in a wide-ranging interview with The Times on February 22.“If you are traveling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero,” he added.

“You can’t say stuff, because it’s racism, but it will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion. Thirty years ago it was the Irish,” said the billionaire.

Umar al-Qadri, head Imam of the Islamic Centre of Ireland, said terrorism is not confined to any one community. He later tweeted that O’Leary’s comments were “very irresponsible” in the current climate of Islamophobia. “I am concerned for young Muslim men growing up in a society in which societal figures can make such irresponsible comments,” he said.

Hitting back, Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, said, “If he can tell me what colour Muslims are then I’d be very happy to learn from him – you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Referring to the far-right terrorist attack in the German city of Hanau in February Mahmood said, “In Germany this week a white person killed eight people. Should we profile white people to see if they’re being fascists? ‘He’s being very blinkered and is actually encouraging racism.”

Scotland’s Justice Minister Humza Yousaf condemned the comments on Twitter, writing, ‘awful from Michael O’Leary suggesting racial profiling to be introduced at airports.’

A spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain said, “Michael O’Leary should be under no illusion: his comments are racist and discriminatory. He openly advocates discrimination against ‘males of a Muslim persuasion’, which presumably is not based on specific intelligence but solely whether someone ‘looks or acts like a Muslim’. This is the very definition of Islamophobia.”

The Dublin City Interfaith Forum also condemned “unreservedly, and with one unified voice” comments by O’Leary that terrorists “will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion”.

He subsequently apologised “for any offence caused”. The Forum said his comments only served “to fuel an atmosphere already rife with unjustified anti-Islamic feeling and Islamophobia”.

German Green party politician Ali Baş accused O’Leary of spreading Islamophobia with his words. ‘Why can someone like O’Leary spread Islamophobia like this today? Because he thinks people don’t care. It’s time to boycott Ryanair. Also, for many other reasons,’ he wrote on Twitter.

O’Leary triggered more anger by issuing a “half-baked apology”. Ryanair insisted an “inaccurate” headline suggesting its chief wanted extra checks on Muslim men had sparked the furore.

It added, “Michael was only calling for more effective airport security checks which would do away with much of the unnecessary queues at airport security today. He apologises sincerely for any offence caused to any group by today’s inaccurate headline.”

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