The Police Federation yesterday accused one of Britain's most senior Muslim officers of displaying "blissful ignorance" over passenger profiling as the Government a nnounced that airport restrictions are to become more "manageable".

The federation, which represents rank-and-file police officers, said comments by Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei opposing profiling were likely to inflame moderate Muslim opinion and play into the hands of terrorists.

Last week, Mr Dizaei said intelligence based on ethnicity, religion and country of origin was "hugely problematic". He added: "What you are suggesting is that we should have a new offence in this country called 'travelling whilst Asian'."

But Police Federation vice-chairman Alan Gordon said profiling had already been used to stop football hooligans travelling to Germany for the World Cup, and Israeli airline El Al had used profiling for years.

He said: "The reality is that profiling in one form or another has always existed in policing and football hooligans are only one example.

"I have no doubt that the Home Secretary predicted negative knee-jerkism at the slightest hint of profiling, but it is a sad state of affairs that this has come from a high-ranking police officer at such a sensitive time.

"In dismissing profiling before making a dispassionate analysis of the evidence I fear Mr Dizaei is displaying the same mindset as his colleague Metropolitan Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur: blissful ignorance."

He added: "Cheap, sensationalist soundbites about creating an offence of 'travelling whilst Asian' are only likely to inflame moderate Muslim opinion and thus play into the hands of the terrorist. Yes, this is a difficult and emotive debate. But it is a debate we must have."