Two American Muslim women were asked to leave an American Airlines plane after one of them talked to another passenger about the lack of water and food and a flight attendant said they had made him feel “unsafe”.
Niala Mohammad, a journalist for the government-funded news outlet Voice of America, and her friend, who works for the federal government and did not want to be named, were travelling on an American Airlines flight from Miami to Washington when they were asked to disembark the plane.
Ms Mohammad, a journalist who has had dinner with Malala Yousufzai, the woman who spoke out against Taliban oppression, wrote in a Facebook post that their plane had been grounded for about five hours in Miami and they were not allowed to buy food or drink.
Her friend and a white male passenger seated behind her started talking about the delay.
A male flight attendant allegedly approached her friend and said: “If you have a problem, you can get off the plane.”
He also accused her of “instigating” objections from other passengers and allegedly threatened to remove her from the plane.
Ms Mohammad was watching a Pakistani drama and took off her headphones to learn what had happened.
The friends took a picture of the male flight attendant to try and identify him as he was not wearing a badge and did not give them his name.
They were then told that taking a picture was a federal offence and were asked by a female attendant to delete the picture.
An American Airlines customer relations representative came on board and asked the two women to follow her off the plane, where they were greeted by armed air marshals and police officers. They told the women that the male flight attendant had felt threatened by them.
The male passenger they had talked to on board the plane was not asked to leave.
The two women were assigned seats on the next available flight, and offered a $200 credit voucher and $24 food voucher.
“Although we were encouraged to document the incident to AA customer relations, we still experienced insult and embarrassment as two minority Muslim-American women,” she wrote.
“For being such a ”threat“ to an AA attendant, it's telling that the Miami-Dade police officers joked with us and posed for this picture with the ”pretty harmless“ airplane menaces.”
American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello told The Independent that the passenger had violated the airline's policy of videotaping and taking pictures of an attendant even though he reportedly asked them to stop.
"This was a case of non-compliance. At no moment did discrimination come up, according to the passenger relations representative who was there," she said. "She told me they were very calm, very nice, they weren't upset. They didn't say they were being kicked off because they were Muslim. Those words never came out of their mouths. It's only now that she's saying this was an issue."
Ms Mohammad responded: "I'm really disappointed in American Airlines for not taking ownership of their mistake or reprimanding the airline attendant for his rude behaviour. I feel insulted and the non-compliance statement is a complete and utter lie."
The news comes as a couple of American Muslims were told to leave a Delta Air Lines flight in Paris after a flight attendant told the pilot that the passengers made her feel “uncomfortable”.
The husband and wife were allegedly singled out for removal by the pilot, and no other passengers were asked to leave.
The executive director of the Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told The Independent that the married couple were flying home after enjoying a brief holiday in the French capital.
“They had to wait until the next day to fly home,” she said.
CAIR has filed a complaint to the department of transportation, alleging that the couple were religiously profiled after the flight attendant had expressed her concerns.
CAIR-Cincinnati staff lawyer Sana Hassan said: “We call on the US department of transportation to conduct a thorough examination into the prevailing practices of major American air carriers, including Delta Airlines, and to develop policy guidelines on the objective factors that are to be considered when determining that a passenger may legally be removed from a flight.”
Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said: "Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We are concerned by the allegations and are looking into what transpired."
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