Chicago, May 31: Hundreds of people have pledged to boycott United Airlines after a Muslim passenger alleged discrimination due to Islamophobia over an unopened can of Diet Coke onboard the American airliner.
Tahera Ahmad's Facebook post over the "clear" discrimination went almost immediately went viral yesterday.
The Muslim chaplain at Chicago's Northwestern University was onboard a flight this weekend when she asked for an unopened can of soda for hygienic reasons and says was told, "Well, I'm sorry. I just can't give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you."
When the man next to her allegedly got an unopened beer can from the in-flight service, Ahmad said she was told something even more inflammatory:
"We are unauthorised to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a WEAPON on the plane." Ahmad said her fellow passengers were of no help.
In her post, she says she was told by another male passenger across the aisle that "you Moslem, you need to shut... up" and used an offensive word. He said she knew she would use it as a 'weapon' so she should better shut up.
"I am sitting on a United airlines flight in the air 30,000 ft above and I am in tears of humiliation from discrimination... #IslamophobiaISREAL," she posted.
Ahmad did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but Muslim activists took to social media to call the alleged incident an "inexcusable" act of bigotry as other social media users said they would boycott United Airlines based on what they interpreted as open discrimination.
United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart told the Guardian that the airline was attempting to contact Ahmad in order to "get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight".
He said United was discussing the alleged incident with Shuttle America, the airline's regional partner that operated the flight.
Federal Aviation Administration policy forbids carrying on unopened alcoholic beverages but does not appear to have a specific "unopened can" regulation, the report said.
Ahmad told the Chicago Sun-Times that she received an apology from the flight attendant on behalf of herself and the other passenger, saying that the United employee had "acknowledged it was unethical and said he never should have said anything".
"I am truly dissapointed at the latest statement by United Airlines. Unfortunately United has dismissed my entire narrative and trivialized it to a can of soda. As a Premier frequent flyer at United, I have been served unopened canned beverages many times and I have followed United procedures in all of my travels. It is ridiculing to my integrity to dismiss the discrimatory behavior towards me. I have dedicated my life to peace, infact I was on this United flight to promote social justice activism, just and peaceful conversations between Israelis and Palestinians at Kids4Peace. It is truly disheartening when the discrimination of Americans as myself who are working hard everyday to promote dialogue and understanding is disregarded and trivialized. I have been patiently waiting to hear an acknowledgement of their discrimination vis-a-vis inconsistency in following procedure and then verbally accusing me of using a can of diet soda as a weapon, resulting and encouraging further hateful words by a passenger . I have not received a written sincere apology for the pain and hurt I experienced as a result of the discrimination and hateful words towards me. This is not about a can of soda. I was really hoping that after speaking with me they would have publicly acknowledged their lack of consistency in following procedure, the flight attendant's rude and discrimatory behavior and accusations which led to hateful words, and the unfortunate lack of bystander intervention nor the flight attendants attempt to intervene and prevent further disrespect which created an unsafe space for me. Instead of publishing an apology for the discrimination and clarifying what corrective measures they will take to ensure that they will prevent this from reoccuring, they have dismissed it as a mere can of soda issue. I want to make it very clear to the public that my intentions are NOT to get the flight attendant who behaved very rudely towards me fired. I simply did not expect United Airlines to dismiss the unwarranted and unfortunate rude behavior, discrimination and hateful words but rather acknowledge their accountability and role in the painful experience and share corrective measures within their training to prevent this from happening again regardless of their race, religion, gender, sex, or socioeconomic background. #unitedfortahera #unitedairlines #united"
On May 29, she posted, "I am sitting on a United airlines flight in the air 30,000ft above and I am in tears of humiliation from discrimination. The flight attendant asked me what I would like to drink and I requested a can of diet coke. She brought me a can that was open so I requested an unopened can due to hygienic reasons. She said no one has consumed from the drink, but I requested an unopened can. She responded, "Well I'm sorry I just can't give you an unopened can so no diet coke for you." She then brought the man sitting next to me a can of UNOPENED beer. So I asked her again why she refused to give me an UNOPENED can of diet coke. She said, "We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a WEAPON on the plane." So I told her that she was clearly discriminating against me because she gave the man next to me an unopened can of beer. She looked at his can, quickly grabbed it and opened it and said, "it's so you don't use it as a weapon." Apphauled at her behavior I asked people around me if they witnessed this discriminatory and disgusting behavior and the man sitting in an aisle across from me yelled out to me, "you Moslem, you need to shut the F** up." I said, "what?!" He then leaned over from his seat, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON so shut the f**k up." I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes. I can't help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay. #IslamophobiaISREAL
Here's how Twitteratti reacted: