31 May 2015

United Airlines boycott over alleged ‘Islamophobia’ incident

Muslim chaplain Tahera Ahmad claims she faced discrimination and verbal abuse while she was on board a United Airlines flight on Friday.

United Airlines is reportedly being boycotted by people who were appalled after a woman was reduced to tears by an alleged ‘Islamophobic’ incident on a flight.

Tahera Ahmad, director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, in Illinois, claims that a flight attendant refused to give her a drink in an unopened can in case she used it “as a weapon”.

Read more: Is Islamophobia becoming acceptable?

On her Facebook page, Ahmad alleged that her request was refused because the attendant reportedly said it could be used “as a weapon on the plane”.

When the man next to her allegedly got an unopened beer can from the in-flight service, Ahmad said she was told: “We are unauthorised to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”

The attendant then “quickly grabbed” the man’s can of beer and opened it, according to Ahmad.

“She was clearly discriminating against me,” Ahmad wrote in an emotional Facebook post from the plane, before adding that she had expected other passengers around her to come to her defence, but none did and one man allegedly shouted at her “You Moslem, you need to shut the f*** up.”

Ahmad said she could not help but cry because she thought “people would defend me and say something”.

She added the hashtag #IslamophobiaISREAL to her Facebook account of the experience.

The hashtag #UnitedForTahera soon spread on Twitter, as supporters pledged not to use United Airlines until it apologised for what called a display of “blind, idiotic hatred.”

Ahmad told the Chicago Sun Times that she received an apology from the flight attendant on behalf of herself and the other passenger, saying the attendant “acknowledged it was unethical and said he never should have said anything”.

Ahmad said the pilot also apologised and walked her to the service desk once the flight landed at Reagan National Airport, so she could file a formal complaint.

She posted an update after the flight claiming that the incident had been referred to as a “misunderstanding regarding a can of diet soda”.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “We spoke with Ms. Ahmad this afternoon to get a better understanding of what occurred and to apologize for not delivering the service our customers expect when travelling with us.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to welcome Ms Ahmad back.”

However, Ahmad has since said she is “disappointed” at the latest statement, saying that it trivialised the situation to a can of diet coke.