Michael O’Leary,
Ryanair Ltd.
Registered Office:
Ryanair Corporate Head Office
Dublin Airport
Co. Dublin

Dear Michael,

RE: Comments on Women Wearing the Niqab and Minority Faiths

We hope you are well and we are saddened to write to you in such circumstances. We are writing in connection to your comments in which you suggested that the burqa should be banned and it was also reported that you stated that our country was ‘leaning over far too much,’ for minority religions like Islam.

We are saddened to read such comments and in particular, when it seems that such comments play to dog-whistle politics and where the impacts are predominantly felt by women in communities. As you will know, a minority of Muslim women wear the burqa and the niqab, though since we live in a liberal society, the decision what women should wear on their bodies is one that they should make. Whilst we understand that you have aligned Ryanair marketing to show youthful women dressed in bikinis since it sells an image that is aimed at your target market, this does not mean and should not mean denigrating or reducing the rights for other women to choose what they want to wear.

Over the last 2 years, we have had numerous reports from visible Muslim women who have been attacked, assaulted and abused, both on-line and at a street level and many have said that the ongoing debate about the niqab (face veil) and the burqa, have focussed attention back on them. Post Woolwich, we were instrumental in raising awareness on the backlash against Muslims after the heinous murder of drummer Lee Rigby and many in Muslim communities were sickened at the murder of a young man on our streets. Yet, it is sad to say that your comments on this area will unfortunately add to the continuing debate which is not helping in terms of a continued focus on Muslim women. Whilst we understand that any press in your opinion is free and valuable press, there are community ramifications to statements particularly when they come from someone who is adept at working the press and who is well-known in our country.

On a separate note, we were also concerned to see that you felt that our country supposedly favoured minority faiths like Islam. We wanted to find out how this is the case? Are there different laws and rules for Muslim communities? In what way do Muslims get favourable treatment? Do Muslims want more than equal rights or are you possibly conflating the actions of individuals who may come from conservative religious traditions and extrapolating them onto all Muslim communities? These are just some of the questions that come to mind and as a businessman, maybe you do not regard passengers who happen to be Muslim as your target market, though disregarding this growing market surely is a retrograde step?

We would be keen on having a meeting with you and if this is something that is not of interest to you, we hope that you may consider some of the points that we have raised in this letter. Additionally, some of our staff remember the days when many within the Irish community in England were seen as being suspect communities during the days of IRA bombings in London and on the English mainland. Such impacts lasted for decades and sometimes led to the worst police and prosecution excesses during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Today, Muslim communities as a whole are unfortunately considered by many as being suspect communities and comments that paint them out as being different, getting favourable treatment, inwardly looking or not a part of our country simply re-enforce this corrosive narrative. In the end, we all need to work for greater mutual respect, dialogue and shared values, which is what we try to work for.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for considering this correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

TELL MAMA National Campaign