The Government was last night urged to think "very carefully" about plans for airport screening based on ethnic and religious grounds because it could lead to the radicalisation of Asian youths.
Community leaders and experts warned the move could alienate the Muslim community at a time when the authorities needed to work more closely with it to counter the terror threat.
The warning came after reports that the Government is considering a system of passenger profiling that would select people behaving suspiciously, who have unusual travel patterns, or have a certain ethnic or religious background.
But Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) said such a system would be unworkable.
"Muslims can be white British converts or from any countries," he said.
He was speaking after a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Labour's Muslim MPs to discuss concerns following last week's terror alert.
Mr Mahmood said he had been reassured that the evidence against the men arrested last week was "robust" and came as a result of extensive surveillance.
"Previously there was a concern that a lot of people are being arrested and then let out again without any charge.
"I think this will provide reassurance to the public that the Government is not taking them away for other reasons.
"Mr Prescott told us police have sufficient information to press charges on a significant number of these people and there will be a case to answer," he said. Birmingham-based public interest lawyer Phil Shiner warned any screening on ethnic grounds could fall foul of the Race Relations Act.
"You can't be directly or indirectly discriminated against, for amongst other things, race. Secondly we have a Human Rights Act and this idea is not going to be lawful unless it can be shown this interference with the Act on this whole section of the population was absolutely necessary.
"My own idea is that courts have had enough of the Government saying 'you know us and you trust us'. They would have to be prepared to justify it and show this was a proper response to the incident."
Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said of the profiling idea: "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."
But Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, said streamlined passenger profiling would improve efficiency at airports.
He said the process should be more like Customs, where people were scrutinised as individuals. "At the moment everyone is basically being treated the same. Everybody is having to take bottles out of their bags and people who are obviously not a threat are subject to security checks.
"Security staff should make a quick decision about appearance and behaviour of the individual when they arrive at the security checkpoint to get people from A to B quickly.
"If you are a family and obviously going on a bucket and spade holiday to Tenerife then you fast track them through the system."
He said profiling did not hinge on the ethnic background of the person, but that element should not be ignored.
"If you arrive in the UK and you happen to be Nigerian you tend to be asked more questions because of known associations with smuggling and scams and use of fraudulent documents."
Father-of-three Zaman Khan, a trader in Moseley, warned profiling could lead to further radicalisation of Asian youth.
"This is just a Government distraction and we need to step back a bit. Why are our inner cities becoming hotbeds for fundamentalists? Because the young youth of today are articulate and they don't feel they belong to Pakistan or England."