‘I know who I’d rather sit beside on a flight’

monarch airline“Two young men flying from Malaga to Manchester last week were not quite up to speed with our new, unwritten laws…. They found themselves being removed from Monarch Airlines flight ZB613 because other travellers, very possibly white travellers, developed suspicions. A three-hour delay developed because the fearful refused to fly unless the pair were taken from the aircraft.

“They were ‘possibly’ in their 20s, after all, and ‘possibly’ of Middle Eastern – or was it ‘Asian’? – appearance. Someone said they looked constantly at their watches. Someone else thought they heard a language that may have been Arabic. Even holidaymakers are profilers these days, but only the white ones have legitimate reasons, apparently, for checking the time impatiently on a holiday flight.

“Monarch, at the time of writing, has been unable to confirm the grounds for these deep suspicions. The two men were removed, nevertheless, and charged with no crime whatever. They merely faced public humiliation, questioning and severe disruption to their own travel plans….

“What does the low-grade hysteria of those Monarch passengers achieve if not another small, useful publicity coup for extremism? What message does a lynch-mob mentality convey to a young Muslim who fears even to board a flight? How many more ‘mistakes’ can John Reid’s department afford? And where does any of it leave our fragile, assailed multi-culturalism? … The real risk now is that Britain, never a model of unity, will be deeply and permanently divided for reasons of race and faith.

“Mr Blair has said recently that there is an argument to be won, and that military means alone will not secure a victory for his ‘values’. I agree with the statement, but doubt his intentions. He can lecture Britain’s Muslims, by all means, on the subject of rights and responsibilities, but it is time that he also began to lecture the non-Muslim majority, and some of his own Ministers, on the meaning of civilised values.

“The concept is being eroded with each passing month. Who would you rather sit beside on a flight from Malaga? An obnoxious Mancunian drunk, or a pacific, and perfectly innocent, young Muslim? One might deserve the attentions of suburban vigilantes; the other certainly does not.”

Ian Bell in The Herald, 22 August 2006

Some good points, though it’s probably just as well the Herald doesn’t have a wide circulation among the people of Manchester.