Jane Kelly; What’s next after EgyptAir? Airport baggage checkers in burkas ?

It's me can't you see

It’s almost certain 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. [pullquote]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 –  many women were wearing the hijab.[/pullquote]

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 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. 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.

The bomber could have got on board in Charles de Gaulle. 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 killed and 350 injured, were planning an attack on France’s busiest airport.

Augustin de Romanet, chief executive officer of ADP, the company that runs the airport and Orly, ‘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; 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.  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 90s 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 –  many women were wearing the hijab.

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 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 particular targets.

No one in their right mind wants to make war on people living among them, but if they make war against their fellow 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.

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.

2 Comments on Jane Kelly; What’s next after EgyptAir? Airport baggage checkers in burkas ?

  1. Sadly, it will be necessary to go further than banning airport workers in beards etc. The attackers in Paris, or some of them, were clean shaven and in western garb. Such people are mostly drawn from the ranks of petty criminals.

  2. In recent years having an interest in Egyptology I have been a frequent traveller to Egypt. At Luxor Airport, on the return flight to Heathrow, for two years in succession, I & my fellow travellers have been subjected to the most extreme security checks. Our cabin baggage was thoroughly checked, not once but three times at each stage. The checks consisted not just of an X-ray but a complete emptying of the bag (including soiled underwear) & visual internal inspection by a security official. I had a bottle of water in my bag & I was made to drink some of it before I was allowed to keep it. Our passports were also checked not once but three times. While on tour in middle Egypt our coach & party was escorted by two police pick-up trucks & one Egyptian anti-terrorist SWAT team truck with armed, masked, bullet proof jacketed & specially trained personnel who also accompanied us when we left the coach to visit a site. Even at El Kab we were accompanied by armed personnel. One may think this is over the top but the Egyptians at least take security seriously being fully aware of the perilous state of their tourist trade & the further damage a terrorist incident could do. British security compared to this is a joke, (oh but I did see two armed police officers at Heathrow on the way out, just). One perhaps is actually safer in Egypt. Our guide actually believed that terrorism would increase & world travel would decrease as a result & he had advised his daughter to travel NOW before it got too late. There are actually CCTV cameras, motion detectors & troops guarding the valley of the Kings at Luxor & they can be seen on the cliff tops. We certainly could take a leaf out of the Egyptians’ book!

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