Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim US university chaplain, says that a United Airlines flight attendant refused to give her a drink in an unopened can in case she used it "as a weapon".
Ahmad told her story in a Facebook post from the air
Ahmad, who is Director of Interfaith Engagement and Associate Chaplain at Northwestern University in Illinois, claimed she was on a flight and asked a flight attendant for an unopened can of Coca-Cola.
Her request was refused, she says, because the attendant claimed Ahmad - who wears a Hijab in her Facebook profile picture - may have used it "as a weapon on the plane."
Opening drinks cans before serving them is common practice for staff on many airlines, yet, Ahmad said in a Facebook post, the attendant then immediately proceeded to hand the male passenger sitting next to her an unopened can of beer.
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When Ahmad challenged the flight attendant on why the man next to her was apparently able to have an unopened can without being a security threat, the attendant said she was "unauthorized [sic] 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 shouted at her "You Moslem [sic], you need to shut the f** up."
Ahmad claimed she couldn't help but cry because she thought "people would defend me and say something" and could "feel the hate" in the voice of the passenger who yelled at her.
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 what called a display of "blind, idiotic hatred."
— Omar Suleiman (@omarsuleiman504) May 30, 2015
Boycotting united #unitedfortahera
— ΑΣΙΕΛ (@OMGitsAsiel) May 30, 2015
— Ahmad Ghani (@ahmadsghani) May 30, 2015
— Ahmad Alaswad (@ahmadalaswad) May 30, 2015
— Eman C. (@emaaanc) May 30, 2015
— Robert Ungemach (@DobbsnDallas) May 30, 2015
— Quran Weekly (@QuranWeekly) May 30, 2015
— AbdelRahman Murphy (@AbdelRahmanM) May 30, 2015
— amanda (@ruthwelles) May 30, 2015
It is a disgusting behavior. I will never fly with United until they apologize and recognize their discriminatory action. #unitedfortahera
— محمدسالم عبد الرحمن (@mabderrahma) May 30, 2015
This is a sickening display of racism and blind, idiotic hatred.
— Manik (@ManikRathee) May 30, 2015
#unitedfortahera whoa man!!! A Muslim woman with an unopened diet coke can?!?!?!?!? Such terrorism! Much danger! Zero calories!!!
— ♛ shahreen ♛ (@shahreeeeen) May 30, 2015
— Kulsoom Rizvi (@kulsoomrizvi_) May 30, 2015
Ahmad posted an update after the flight at 6.30pm UK time, saying that both the flight attendant and the pilot on the plane had apologised, with the attendant saying that her behaviour was "utterly rude".
The pilot of the flight had helped her to file a complaint, she said, although the airline itself had still not communicated with her directly.
— Tahera Ahmad (@TaheraHAhmad) May 30, 2015
But United Airlines said in a statement that it was "reaching out to her".
It said: "United is a company that strongly supports diversity and inclusion, and we and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers. We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight.
"We are also discussing the matter that Ms. Ahmad describes with Shuttle America, our regional partner that operated the flight. We look forward to speaking with Ms. Ahmad and hope to have the opportunity to welcome her back."