The CEO of the Ireland-based Ryanair budget airline has sparked outrage on Saturday after calling for profiling Muslim men at airports.
Michael O’Leary told The London Times that terrorists are “generally… of a Muslim persuasion.
“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 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,” the firebrand CEO added.
A spokesman from the Muslim council of Britain accused O’Leary 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,” the council said.
O’Leary was “encouraging racism,” Labour MP Khalid Mahmood told The Times in response. “In Germany this week a white person killed eight people. Should we profile white people to see if they’re being fascists?”
Following the criticism, Ryanair released a statement saying that “no call for extra checks on any group or persons was made” in the interview and that The Times had not accurately reported what the CEO had said.
“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 Ryanair spokesperson told BBC. “He apologizes sincerely for any offense caused to any group by today’s inaccurate headline.”
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.
AFP contributed to this report.