LONDON: Muslim men should be profiled at airports as terrorists will “generally be of a Muslim persuasion,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in an interview published Saturday, sparking accusations of racism.
“Who are the bombers?” the budget airline’s controversial chief executive said while discussing airport security in the interview with the Times newspaper.
“They are going to be single males traveling on their own... If you are traveling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero.”
“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.”
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A spokesman from the Muslim council of Britain accused O’Leary of “Islamophobia.”
In a statement, he 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.
“Institutional discrimination against Muslims is well established: whether it is the ability to get a job, buy a flat or even getting car insurance. The challenges of #flyingwhilstMuslim are well documented across the globe.
“It is a shame that such racism is being expressed so openly, and that the CEO of a large airline would so want to discriminate against his customers so brazenly.”
British Islamophobia monitor Tell MAMA also released a statement, saying O'Leary's comments could be his “Gerald Ratner moment,” in reference to a speech made by the jewelry businessman which led to his company losing £500 million ($647 million) in value.
“Michael O’Leary wants airport profiling of Muslim men since he says ‘that is where the threat is coming from,’” it said.
“Besides being discriminatory and basing judgements on the ‘looks’ of people, which is abhorrent, O’Leary clearly does not know about the history of terrorism, where people have used others to bypass this blunt and divisive technique.
“This could be a Gerald Ratner moment for O’Leary, where his flippant statements come back to serious affect his business.”
O’Leary was “encouraging racism,” Labour MP Khalid Mahmood told the Times.
“In Germany this week a white person killed eight people. Should we profile white people to see if they’re being fascists?”
The Ryanair CEO is known for his controversial views and has floated proposals to charge fliers to use the toilet during Ryanair flights and a “fat tax” on obese passengers.
Ryanair issued a statement on Saturday, which said O'Leary did not call for extra checks on any group or people.
“Michael was only calling for more effective airport security checks which would do away with much of the unnecessary queues at airport security today for all passengers,” a spokesperson said.
“He apologises sincerely for any offence caused to any group by today's inaccurate headline.”