Is there really any surprise that the passengers of the Swiss airport were uncomfortable with Muslim men loading luggage onto their airplanes? Thirty men have been fired from Geneva Airport in Switzerland just days after a major terrorism alert in Geneva, which saw public buildings and railway stations put into lockdown, and two terminals of the city airport closed. All the men–reported to be baggage handlers–had their security passes removed in December with no reason given by the authorities. It has now been revealed they were all male Muslims with Arabic names.
Think about the storm of hateful accusations against the airport that would ensue had this taken place in the United States. Reports of racism, bigotry, and anti-Muslim hate would no doubt force airport executives out of a job. Since their firing, two of the men have filed discrimination complaints that claim they were improperly stereotyped. One report states that the men were asked to shave their beards because it was making passengers uncomfortable, to which they refused. It has yet to be seen what kind of blowback airport officials will face.
This type of situation brings up the issue of whether or not profiling is ethical or even effective. Is it unreasonable to ask men who fit the stereotype of terrorists to comply with grooming standards that make civilians feel less threatened? If a man wearing a trench coat and sunglasses inside an office building was making coworkers feel uncomfortable, would it be unethical to ask the man to remove them for the sake of the others? Granted, there is a religious aspect of scenarios involving the Muslim men and their beards, but let’s be reasonable here.
It is not like those men were enjoying lunch at a restaurant and were asked to leave. They are working in a controlled area where bags are loaded onto airplanes, and let’s be honest, they have to know that they are making people uncomfortable. Is it necessarily their fault that the actions of other Muslims have caused this sort of situation? No. But they certainly must be capable of finding a job that does not put them in such a predicament. What would you do in that situation?
It has been confirmed today that 28 of the sacked men were French passport holders with Arabic names.
“Almost all are Muslims,” according to reports.
The revelation comes in the pages of German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which reports the airport worker’s union is still trying to get a straight answer over why the men were dismissed last year. So far, the only confirmation is that the airport has the right to terminate any employee with an access badge for security reasons at any time — yet the union persists in trying to get compensation for lost earnings.
While it has not been established if the 30 men lost their passes suddenly and without warning because they were suspected of being a terror threat, German-language reports suggest that another former airport employee who was arrested by the French security services for Islamic terrorism may have led them to an even larger cell at the airport.
That the men are believed to have been employed to handle baggage—perhaps the most significant potential weak point in airport security—could be significant