He might not technically be a terrorist, but can we stop calling the EgyptAir hijacker a 'lovesick Romeo'?

Peak stupid: British passenger Ben Innes gets the "best selfie ever" with a hijacker.

Peak stupid: British passenger Ben Innes gets the "best selfie ever" with a hijacker.

When news broke yesterday afternoon that an EgyptAir plane had been hijacked, the world held its breath, fearing the worst.

Within a few hours, though, we were told not to worry - the plane had landed in Cyprus and the hijacker was not a "terrorist". Amid a lot of confusing and still unconfirmed reports on his motives, a picture began to emerge that this hijacker - Egyptian national Seif Eldin Mustafa - was just a regular (albeit stupid) man, on a mission of 'romance'.

One of Mustafa's main demands, according to these reports, was to be reunited with his estranged wife, named in the Cypriot press as Marina Paraschou, a 51-year-old with whom he reportedly had four children.

A bus carrying passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft at Larnaca Airport.

A bus carrying passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft at Larnaca Airport. Photo: Petros Karadjias


At a news conference, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades chuckled that "always there is a woman involved."

Men, amirite? And women, don't get me started on the women! This hilarious unfolding situation could take hours to wrap up, try the veal.

One journalist at the press conference sent out a tweet describing Mustafa as a "love sick Romeo", which immediately became the headline around the world.

While the man's probably terrified ex-wife and her young child were bundled to the airport by authorities to defuse the situation, one passenger took the opportunity to have a selfie with the hijacker.

The photo has been doing the rounds on social media all day Wednesday, because honestly, what a bloke. What a funny story about male violence and entitlement this has all turned out to be.

"Honestly this is over a woman?" one passenger was quoted as saying as they escaped from the aircraft. "I'm going to jab her eyes out." Her eyes. Not the man who just hijacked the plane, but the poor woman he did it in order to get at.

Let's get this straight. Hijacking a passenger plane in a bid to force your estranged partner to meet you is not romantic, not a joke, and arguably still a form of terrorism.

Although we haven't heard from the woman herself yet, chances are if your ex-husband has to create a hostage situation in order to force you to talk to him, you're not on the most loving of terms. It's probably fairly safe to assume she didn't especially want to see the guy, especially after he just made international headlines threatening to blow up a plane.

To the eyes of anyone with even a basic understanding of domestic violence, this incident appears to represent the extreme actions of an abusive ex-spouse. Something Rosie Batty would potentially call "family terrorism". So why, now that conventional terrorism has been ruled out, is it automatically being treated as a joke, a 'private matter' - or worse - some sort of grand romantic gesture?

Even if Mustafa's actions turn out not to be connected to a domestic violence situation, the fact that the world's media went from 'possible terrorist attack' to 'romantic comedy' without even a question about the wellbeing of the estranged wife he demanded to see is sadly telling.

It's not even the first time a man has done this. In 1961, a drunken oil worker attempted to commandeer a flight to visit his estranged wife in Arkansas. In 1971, a former Navy aviation mechanic hijacked a flight from New York to Chicago in an attempt to reach his pen pal in Italy, whom he had "fallen in love" with. The latter was shot dead by an FBI sniper. Just another quirky story about 'men behaving badly with aircraft' because the womenfolk made them crazy.

Using violence and terror to get your way is not OK. That seems obvious. But it also seems we're only willing to condemn it when the violence is against members of the public. Yet again, the excuse of "love" has been used to soften a violent crime of entitlement and control into a "crime of passion" - something men not so long ago could avoid being punished for.

People don't hijack planes and force their exes to talk to them "out of love", just like they don't humiliate, punch, or murder their spouses "out of love".

Let's stop calling Seif Eldin Mustafa a "lovesick Romeo" and acknowledge that, one way or another, he may in fact still qualify as a terrorist: the kind that uses terror to get women to do what you want.