A North Carolina man may serve time in prison for ripping the hijab, an Islamic-style head scarf, off a Muslim woman’s head during a Southwest Airlines flight.
On a December 11, 2015 flight from Chicago to Albuquerque, 37-year-old Gill Parker Payne approached a woman wearing a hijab and told her to remove it, the New York Daily News reports.
“Take it off," Payne admitted saying to the woman before ripping the hijab from her head, according to the Department of Justice. This is America."
The woman, identified as KA, told officials she felt violated by the incident and quickly put her hijab back on, the Daily Mail reports.
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Payne was seated several rows behind KA on the flight and did not have any interaction with her prior to the incident.
“I saw that KA was wearing a head scarf," Payne said in a plea agreement. "I was aware that it is a religious practice of Muslim women to wear a headscarf."
Payne plead guilty in federal court on May 13 to using force to stop the woman from freely exercising her religious beliefs, according to the New York Daily News.
He faces a sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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The case “sends a clear message to anyone who contemplates the use of threats or intimidation to interfere with the right of individuals, including members of our Muslim community, to express their faith without fear.” U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said.