Michael O'Leary branded 'racist' after suggesting profiling at airports because Muslim men 'are more likely to be terrorists'

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has sparked controversy by suggesting Muslim men should face extra searches at airports. (Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been condemned for “encouraging racism” after suggesting that Muslim men should face more searches at airports because they are more likely to be terrorists.

O’Leary’s comments to The Times, in which he said terrorists “will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion”, have also been branded “abhorrent” and “racist and discriminatory”.

In the wide-ranging interview, the 58-year-old Ryanair chief executive suggested that families with young children should be subject to lesser checks because there was “virtually” zero chance of them being bombers.

He said: “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.”

Michael O'Leary has been condemned for "encouraging racism" by his comments. (Picture: Getty)

The comments have sparked a backlash, with Labour MP Khalid Mahmood accusing Mr O’Leary of “encouraging racism”.

He told The Times: “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 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.”

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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.”

Tell MAMA UK, which monitors anti-Muslim activity, shared a statement from director Iman A’tta OBE which 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 & divisive technique.”

“This could be a Gerald Ratner moment for O’Leary, where his flippant statements come back to seriously affect his business.”

The comment refers to jewellery firm boss Gerald Ratner was axed after calling one of his own products “total crap” in 1991, causing profits to tumble.

It’s not the first time O’Leary has made comments that have sparked a backlash.

He once said: “The best thing you can do with environmentalists is shoot them.”

On another occasion he directed his ire at travel agents, saying: “Screw the travel agents. Take the f***ers out and shoot them. What have they done for passengers over the years?”