The Government was warned today it risked alienating the Muslim community over reported plans to introduce airport security screening on ethnic and religious grounds.
The Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei said tougher checks based on ethnicity and religious background would create a new offence of "travelling whilst Asian".
The Muslim Council of Britain also said such checks could risk alienating Muslims - the group with whom the Government must work to counter terrorism.
The comments come after a report in The Times newspaper that officials are considering a system of passenger-profiling that would select people behaving suspiciously, who have an unusual travel pattern or have a certain ethnic or religious background.
The move also came after former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens said airport chaos could be reduced by targeting passengers for more rigorous checks, with "young Muslim men" a focus.
Chief Supt Dizaei, one of Britain's most senior Muslim officers, said intelligence could be used to examine travel history and how a ticket is purchased but added: "It becomes hugely problematic when it's based on ethnicity, religion and country of origin.
"I don't think there's a stereotypical image of a terrorist."
Speaking on BBC2 Newsnight said: "What you are suggesting is that we should have a new offence in this country called 'travelling whilst Asian'.
"That's unpalatable to everyone. It is communities that defeat terrorism, and what we don't want to do is actually alienate the very communities who are going to help us catch terrorists.
"We cannot lose sight of the fact that terrorists come in all shapes and sizes.
"Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, would have certainly gone through the security system because he was a white male.
"Clearly it is about common sense, but it's not about saying to the victims of this problem - and remember the Muslim community is also a victim of this problem, and many of the people on July were in fact Muslim - you are the victims, you go and sort it out.
"It's not dissimilar to saying to women who are victims of domestic violence; 'you are a victim of domestic violence you should go and sort it out yourself'."
Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The Government needs to think very, very carefully before it considers putting this measure into practice. We are by no means convinced that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in this case.
"We have seen very different arrests since 9/11, and terrorists, or suspected terrorists come from many different backgrounds.
"Muslims are not an ethnic group and come from many different backgrounds including from the black community and increasingly from the white community.
"There is concern that such profiling would perhaps only contribute to further alienating a group whose close co-operation is essential in countering terror."
But Haras Rafiq, spokesman for the newly-formed Sufi Muslim Council, said he favoured such screening measures as long as they were carried out in a "professional" and courteous manner.
He said: "I regularly go to the US and abroad, and I regularly get checked, double-checked and sometimes triple checked. I get asked the same questions again and again. I understand the reasons why they have to do this and passengers need to be mindful and understand this as well.
"If I was getting on a plane with my family I would want to make sure that they were in no danger."
A Department for Transport spokesman would not confirm or deny the reports in The Times, only confirming: "In due course we expect to issue new security requirements but we are working out at the moment what they are going to say."Reuse content