It was widely reported on Saturday 22 February that the boss of Ryanair made some controversial comments about Muslim men. But instead of reading the media’s response to his “racist” comments, social media probably gave the best commentary of all.
As BBC News reported, the head of Ryanair Michael O’Leary gave an interview to the Times. It was wide-ranging, covering Brexit, the collapse of Flybe, the climate crisis and more. But it was his comments about terrorism which have sparked outrage.
He was responding to the question “what should the government do” about terrorism. The Times said O’Leary “would profile passengers”. He told the Murdoch-owned outlet:
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 f***ing 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. If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat.
But Twitter was having none of it.
Sadiya said that her family had direct experience of this:
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This happened to my (Muslim) brother-in-law in Bologna on Thursday. Just about to board the plane and he was asked for additional ID – credit cards, drivers licence etc. Just him. #RyanAir https://t.co/6qx2wxYz7E
— Sadiya (@esadiya) February 22, 2020
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) made an excellent point:
— MPACUK (@MPACUK) February 22, 2020
Asheck pointed to another Ryanair event that sparked controversy:
This is absolutely disgraceful from @Ryanair. I know you like to scrape the barrel and already appease racists onboard, but now you are openly calling for discrimination!#Ryanair #boycottryanair https://t.co/g2LhbsS8cS
— Asheck (@asheck) February 22, 2020
As the Guardian reported, in 2019 a man was filmed on a Ryanair flight hurling racist abuse at a woman. The airline was criticised at the time for not removing the man. They actually made the victim move seat.
But O’Leary’s racist comments were not the only worrying part of his Times interview. Because in it he said:
- The #MeToo movement had made the “culture” in workplaces go “completely nuts”.
- Some obese people were “complete monsters”.
- Education in school about the climate crisis has “brainwashed” his children.
- Complete accessibility for his disabled employees was “complete and utter bloody nonsense”.
He also appeared to mock gender fluidity, saying:
I’m male today and I’ll be female tomorrow. … we have to pander to all that nonsense.
Predictably, people are now saying they’ll boycott Ryanair:
— Fahmida (@Fahmidaakhatun) February 22, 2020
And while this writer would love to get involved, there could be a problem for some people:
— Steve Topple (@MrTopple) February 22, 2020
We really shouldn’t be surprised by O’Leary’s comments. The Ryanair boss has a history of questionable quotes. But given the recent far-right terrorist attack in Germany, maybe O’Leary should consider his racist assumptions before commenting publicly.
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