Senator Asks Airlines About Anti-Muslim Incidents


An Iraqi refugee booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic. A Muslim family kicked off an American Airlines flight after the mother asked a flight attendant for help securing her child in a booster seat. A Muslim chaplain denied an unopened can of soda by a flight attendant because it could be used as a weapon.

All three of those incidents happened in 2015 and 2016, and now a high-ranking senate Democrat wants the airline industry to explain how it can guarantee similar incidents won't happen in the future, according to CNN.

"Airlines are entrusted with enormous responsibilities to keep our skies safe while respecting the rights of all passengers," Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois wrote in a letter to Airlines for America, the commercial flight industry's trade association. "No airline passenger should be subject to discriminatory treatment on the basis of the passenger's religion or ethnicity."

The trade association hasn't responded to Durbin yet, and in an email response to CNN, a spokesman declined to discuss specifics, telling the network that "we look forward to reviewing Sen. Durbin's concerns and will respond to him accordingly."

Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, detailed her experience on the United Airlines flight in a March 29 Facebook post that garnered over 1,900 "likes" and 9,600 shares as of April 22.

Ahmad wrote that she shed "tears of humiliation from discrimination" after a flight attendant refused to provide her with an unopened can of Diet Coke. The flight attendant had reportedly just given an unopened bottle of beer to the man sitting next to Ahmad.

"We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane," the flight attendant said, according to Ahmad.

Ahmad wrote that her fellow passengers were unsympathetic and that one passenger had "hate in his voice and raging eyes" when he told her, "[Y]ou know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the ---- up."

The airline has since apologized to Ahmad for the incident, NBC News noted.

Durbin quoted U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in his letter to the airline trade association, saying there's been "an alarming increase in anti-Muslim bigotry" on flights, according to CNN.

In the letter, the senator pressed the trade association to tell him what kind of diversity and non-discrimination training airlines provide to employees. He also asked them to describe how they investigate incidents of alleged bias as well as their procedures for dealing with complaints.

Sources: CNN via ABC-7, Tahera Ahmad/Facebook, NBC News / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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