Giving in to paranoia ‘will hand victory to terrorists’

Airlines must resist giving in to passenger “paranoia” about terrorism to ensure that real terrorists do not succeed in their aim of spreading fear across the UK, an MP has warned.

Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood was speaking after it emerged that two Asian passengers were ejected from a Monarch flight from Malaga to Manchester last week following concerns that they were acting suspiciously.

Initial reports suggested that the two men were forced out after passengers complained about their presence, but Monarch has since insisted that the captain had expressed concern, leading to the decision to remove the men from the flight.

However, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr told politics.co.uk that it was up to airlines and cabin crew to ensure the fear of terrorism on flights did not get out of control.

“In this heightened state of alert and security there is a need to be vigilant, to keep it in perspective. What we do not want to do is to allow the terrorists to win and by having this paranoia they will win,” he said.

“We must ensure that if there is a complaint, the aircrew can take action, such as verifying there are no instruments or weapons on board.”

He added: “This is a very difficult issue, but we don’t want to allow terrorists to win. What they want to do is create fear.”

The two men concerned were reportedly wearing leather jackets and jumpers despite the heat, and repeatedly checked their watches. They were also overheard speaking what was believed to be Arabic.

Their removal – after which they were cleared by security staff and allowed to board a later flight – came as all UK airports were on a high state of alert following fears of a terror plot to blow up several transatlantic flights.

The implementation of tough new security measures caused widespread delays, causing some commentators to call for the introduction of passenger profiling, where only certain people would be stopped and searched.

Ministers have rejected this, and Metropolitan police chief superintendent Ali Dizaei has warned the practice would be akin to creating a new offence of “travelling while Asian”. However, yesterday many analysts noted that this may already be in place.

“It’s a very sad state of affairs that shows how we are falling apart from each other,” Labour MP for Glasgow Central Mohammad Sarwar said.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative homeland security spokesman, added: “These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally. For those unfortunate two men to be victimised because of the colour of their skin is just nonsense.”