The controversial body scanners are now in widespread use in the USA and limited use in the UK, although implementation in the two countries is vastly different, but the latest developments could throw up an interesting dilemma for the UK authorities.
Notwithstanding that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has stated that the use of the scanners in the UK could be ‘unlawful’ due to invasion of privacy and security aspects, the way the UK and USA operate the system is totally different.
At Heathrow and Manchester, it is a question of ‘no scan, you don’t fly’.
In the USA, where the scanners are in widespread use, passengers can opt for an alternative ‘pat down’ and ‘detector’ if they do not wish to go through the scanners.
So fa so good.
However, Muslim groups in the USA are advising Muslims not to go through the scanners as it violates the ‘modesty’ rules laid down in the Koran. In the USA, of course, this means that Muslim passengers would merely be subjected to an alternative form of search.
If this spreads to the UK, where a ‘no scan, no fly’ policy is in operation, will the UK government stand firm by this policy or, as is usually the case (crash helmets-turbans etc) introduce an ‘exception’ into the equation.
If they stand firm then there is no great problem. If they do not stand firm and bow to pressure from a religious group, the situation could become laughable.
Body scanners have been introduced to combat terrorism. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the vast majority of terrorist attacks (although not all) are perpetrated by religious extremists, often (although not always) belonging to the Muslim faith.
Based on past Government behaviour, one could quite envisage a situation where air passengers from a ‘high risk’ grouping are basically free to travel as normal yet members of a ‘low risk’ group, maybe a granny from Cornwall travelling to Lourdes, would not be permitted to fly if she refused to be scanned.
Should this scenario play out, it is to be hoped that the UK government either:
a. Gets rid of the scanners
b. Maintains the ‘no scan, no fly’ policy for all passengers.