It’s entirely possible that the EgyptAir A320 plane was downed last Thursday by a terrorist bomb. None of us can imagine what the sixty six passengers at 30,000 feet went through during that event and we don’t want to think about it as we know it could easily happen to us and our families this summer as we fly to our holiday destinations.
Airport security is no simple matter these days; it’s bound up with the bitter feuds of Islamic politics. Two years ago the doomed A320 was the target of political extremists who wrote: ‘We will bring down this plane,’ in Arabic on its underside. Three EgyptAir security officials said the threatening graffiti was the work of aviation workers at Cairo Airport. Playing on the phonetic similarity between the last two letters in the plane’s registration, SU-GCC, and the surname of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, they also wrote ‘traitor’ and ‘murderer.’ The graffiti about Sisi occurred several times after Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was removed as president in July 2013.
During stopovers at foreign airports, Egyptian security officers are usually responsible for searching the workers who clean the plane and checking the credentials of all crew members or employees who board. Those procedures would have applied to the EgyptAir plane during short stops it made in Tunis and the Eritrean capital, Asmara. But the procedure is different in Paris from where the plane made its final journey because European airports do not permit EgyptAir security officials to search local cleaning workers or baggage handlers, a source of disgruntlement among Egyptian officials, who feel they are suffering discrimination, which may be true.
A potential bomber could have got on board at Charles de Gaulle airport. French security sources have said that Islamist militants killed in a Paris suburb five days after the November 13 attacks in which 130 people were murdered and 350 injured, were planning an attack on France’s busiest airport.
Augustin de Romanet, chief executive officer of ADP, the company that runs this airport and Orly said, ‘Nearly seventy red badges were withdrawn after the attacks, mainly for cases of radicalisation.’
Security agents also examined the contents of around 4,000 workers’ lockers at Charles de Gaulle and Orly in an attempt to weed out any potential terrorist. The radicalisation of airport personnel was first exposed last October after the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt brought down by a bomb smuggled on board, most likely by an airport worker.
After these experiences, the way we can make ourselves slightly more safe is unthinkable but obvious; European airports must refuse employment to ground staff who identify themselves as Muslim. Those low paid jobs will have to go elsewhere.
Between 1945 and 9/11 it was unthinkable, anathema, for people in Europe to consider isolating or stigmatising any group for the actions of a few of its members. No matter what the criminal propensities of certain immigrant groups this was never done. The British public willingly put up with street muggings in the 1980s and 1990s which changed life in our cities particularly for women and the elderly. They still accept knife crime and gang violence and disruption in schools as the norm. The vile treatment of girls and women until recently went unreported. Social services turned a blind eye several times to children being tortured to death if the brutal behaviour was put down to cultural differences.
But mass killing in the air, that nightmare of helplessness and destruction, is surely the end of the line even for the most relativistic European liberal conscience. Not being a liberal, I began to feel that our levels of steadfast sufferance had reached absurd levels a long time ago. Not long after 9/11 when I was travelling through Gatwick, security checks on passengers had increased although not to the levels they are now, and I saw a very long line of airport employees all diligently checking handbags and carriers – all of them women wearing the hijab. There were no other employees visibly doing the job.
Perhaps for some the sight might have been a wonderful example of Christian tolerance and forgiveness. It was true Enlightenment thinking; put your life into the hands of people who might want to kill you and your family and thereby display immense respect, trust and fair-mindedness. I passed along the line feeling worried and flabbergasted.
Firstly I couldn’t help wondering why only those women had been given that job. Secondly, even if I tried hard I could not rationally trust them. Since then the armies of Allah have been on the march throughout the world, killing, maiming, kidnapping and blowing people up and shooting people down, with unarmed western tourists from Bombay to Tunisia as a particular target.
No one in their right mind wants to make war on people living among them, but if they make war against their own civilian population self-defence is surely ethical. A war that is undeclared knows no rules, which is the situation we now face. The way to protect ourselves, although it cannot be totally effective, is to refuse employment in airports to anyone who says that their first loyalty is to Islam. Anyone who feels they have to grow a Sunnah beard or adopt Islamic dress, a clear indication that they have chosen one culture over another, should not be allowed near British airports, except as passengers and then under close scrutiny.
There are secular Muslims out there who will not be affected by such a ruling and like the rest of the public will be more protected by it. The impact of the resurgence of Islam and the arrival of so many Muslims in Europe will mean less liberty for everyone, but at least we will be safe.