Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary slammed for 'racist' comments about Muslims

22 February 2020, 16:29

Michael O&squot;Leary was criticised for his "racist and discriminatory" remarks
Michael O'Leary was criticised for his "racist and discriminatory" remarks. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has been slammed for his "racist and discriminatory" claim that terrorists "will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion."

The airline boss was condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain, who said his comments were "racist and discriminatory" and were "the very definition of Islamophobia."

Hate-crime monitoring group Tell Mama also warned that Mr O'Leary's "abhorrent" remarks could end up seriously affecting his business.

The 58-year-old airline chief told the Times: "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."

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.

"If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat."

Mr O&squot;Leary said terrorists "will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion"
Mr O'Leary said terrorists "will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion". Picture: PA

A spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain said his remarks were "the very definition of Islamophobia" and that he "should be under no illusion" that his words were "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'," she said.

"This is the very definition of Islamophobia."

The spokeswoman stressed that Muslims already face challenges in airline travel.

She added: "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."

Tell Mama said the comments could come back to bite Mr O'Leary's business, likening them to jewellery firm boss Gerald Ratner's disastrous remark in 1991 when he called one of his own products "total crap" and was later axed after profits tumbled.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the group 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 seriously affect his business."

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said Mr O&squot;Leary was "encouraging racism"
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said Mr O'Leary was "encouraging racism". Picture: PA

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said Mr O'Leary was "encouraging racism."

"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," he told the Times.

He added: "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."

The Ryanair chief's remarks came the day after a white female Muslim convert admitted plotting a suicide bomb attack on St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 36, was born Michelle Ramsden but converted to Islam in 2007 and is believed to have become radicalised in 2015 after following extremists online.