An American woman says she was escorted off a plane bound for Istanbul from New Jersey in a deliberate attempt to “humiliate and ostracise” her for being a Muslim.
Kameelah Rasheed was questioned for more than two hours by US officials at Newark Liberty International Airport in what she described as Islamophobic treatment.
The 30-year-old Stanford University graduate, artist and contributing editor at The New Inquiry said the only thing to single her out to the authorities was the fact that she was “the only visibly Muslim person” on the flight of around 200.
Ms Rasheed said that she was initially allowed on the United Airlines flight after security checks and some additional questioning by customs officers.
But before the plane could take off, she was forced to leave and interrogated by an FBI agent, she told Al Jazeera.
The New York resident had her phone and passport confiscated in the incident, while officers asked her questions such as: “Why are you flying? Where are you going in Istanbul? How can you afford to go on holiday? How much was the ticket price?”
“It was an attempt to humiliate and ostracise me,” she said.
Asked if the questioning appeared to be as a result of heightened tensions following the shootings two weeks ago in Paris, Ms Rasheed said: “I don't think there is a resurgence of Islamophobia after the Paris attacks. I think it never went away. It's becoming more legitimised.
“Right after 9/11, you could do it [commit hate crimes towards Muslims] for a couple of years and no one would blame you… And now after Paris, it's like, 'look at what they did, I can treat them how I want'. We didn't make any progress.”
The incident follows a similar one last week when four people “of Middle Eastern descent” were hauled off a Spirit Airlines flight from Baltimore to Chicago. A fellow passenger had alerted crew to so-called suspicious activity – which later turned out to be watching news from the Paris attacks on their phones.
Then, Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told The Independent: “Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more and more of this.”
Ms Rasheed said she didn’t blame her airline, which had been helpful in trying to secure her a refund. She said she felt “very angry and hurt”, and wouldn’t want to fly for the foreseeable future.