Ryanair CEO says that “bombers” at airports are more likely to be “males of a Muslim persuasion,” prompting debate on surging racism, Islamophobia in post-Brexit UK.
Rabat – Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has come under heavy criticism for blatanly suggesting that single Muslim males should be profiled at airports because they represent a “theat” to air travel safety.
“Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males travelling on their own. If you are travelling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero,” O’Leary said in a wide-ranging interview with the Times, published earlier today.
While purporting to be objective and balanced in his suggestions that single males pose a considerable threat to airlines, the 58-year-old CEO went on to controversially point out that airports should be particulalry wary of passengers of a “Muslim persuasion.”
He said, “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. If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat.”
The statements have ignited a social media firestorm, with many of the UK’s vocal Muslim voices expressing surprise that such unashamedly Islamophobic comments could be publicly voiced by the CEO of an established, high-profile air company.
Others said that O’Leary’s comments were particularly scary and abhorrent because they show that many people with racist ideas are holding positions of power and have the resources to act on their racist beliefs.
In a statement, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) strongly condemned O’Leary’s comments, describing them as the “definition of Islamophobia.”
“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,” added an MCB spokesperson.
While O’Leary is no stranger to controversial statements–he once suggested that airlines charge “obese travelers” more–his latest comments come amid mounting racism and Islamophia in post-Brexit Britain.
Some commentators have been pointing out in recent months that racism, including Islamophobia and all forms of migrant-bashing has considerably increased in Britain since Brexit. While minorities have long suffered from institutional dsicrmination, they argue, Brexit seems to have normalized racism and migrant-scapegoating.
In response to the controversy around O’Leary’s Times interview, however, Ryanair issued a statement to sugarcoat its CEO’s comments, claiming that he was only calling for more “effective” security measures and had no intention of hurting the sensibility of any community.
“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 BBC report quoted a Ryanair spokesperson as saying. “He apologises sincerely for any offence caused to any group…”