Muslims warn over being singled out at airport gates

A leading British Muslim group last night warned the government to think “very carefully” following reports that the Department for Transport was in talks with the aviation industry to introduce a method of passenger profiling which could be used to single out Muslims for security checks.

The Muslim Council of Britain said the procedure, which includes “behavioural pattern recognition”, would inevitably lead to discrimination. Inayat Bunglawala, its spokesman, said the government risked alienating “the community whose help it needs in combating the terrorist threat”. He said: “Before some kind of religious profiling is introduced, a case has to be made; and we are certainly not convinced by the arguments for this kind of profiling. First of all, Muslims are not an ethnicity, as was shown by the arrests in last week’s raids; there are many white converts to Islam.”

Mr Bunglawala said that many Muslims already felt “unfairly targeted” because of their appearance, and that some form of profiling was already in effect. “This kind of thing must be intelligence-led, not appearance-led … I hope the government has thought very carefully about this.”

His remarks were echoed by one of Britain’s most senior Muslim police officers. Chief Superintendent Ali Desai of the Metropolitan police told BBC2’s Newsnight that profiling would create a new offence of “travelling whilst Asian”. He added: “That’s unpalatable to everyone … What we don’t want to do is actually alienate the very communities who are going to help us catch terrorists.”

Guardian, 15 August 2006