How’s this for a misleading headline from the BBC?
More than 70 Muslim workers at France’s main airport have been stripped of their security clearance for allegedly posing a risk to passengers.
The staff at Charles de Gaulle airport, including baggage handlers, are said to have visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At first glance I, and others it seems, read this to mean that the airport had introduced a blanket policy on Muslim staff. Far from it.
The BBC’s headline is a shame, because it distracts from the questions that should be raised by this important story – the most important of which relates to the sheer number of staff involved.
72 is a massive number of staff. Either Charles de Gaulle was infiltrated on a massive scale by terrorists (which, lets be honest, is unlikely), or the authorities have made a huge mistake by putting two and two together to reach 72, or the authorities are taking an ultra-cautious line and suspending anyone who they think might pose even the merest possibility of a risk.
Which brings me to the oddest part of this story:
However, about a dozen other workers who have been identified as security risks still have access to sensitive areas of the airport because under French law they must be allowed an opportunity to respond to the charges before they are suspended.
I really find it hard to believe that, faced with a real and immediate security threat to their skies, the French would allow the niceties of French employment law to hinder their security operations. Which leads me to believe that, actually, these employees aren’t actually any kind of real and immediate threat. The fact that none of them have been arrested would seem to add to my suspicions.
I wonder how many staff there are at the airport in total, and how many of those are Muslim. I’d be very interested to know what percentage of the workforce, and in particular what percentage of the Muslim workforce this affects. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a mass of lawsuits in the coming weeks and months from disgruntled employees.