Muslim woman flying United Airlines refused can of coke, staff said she’d weaponize it

Reuters / Louis Nastro
United Airlines is facing a customer backlash after discriminating against a Muslim passenger. Tahera Ahmad was on an internal US flight when she was refused an unopened can of soda. The flight attendant believed she would use it as a weapon.

Ahmad, a Muslim chaplain from Northwestern University, was traveling from Chicago to Washington, DC, for a conference aimed at promoting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth.

During the flight, she asked the flight attendant if she could have a can of diet coke. However, the 31 year-old’s request wasn’t granted. The attendant told her: “Well I'm sorry I just can't give you an unopened can so no diet coke for you,” Ahmed wrote on her Facebook page.

Moments later, the passenger sitting next to her was given an unopened can of beer. This prompted Ahmad to ask the flight attendant why she hadn’t been given an unopened can of diet coke.

"We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane,” the attendant is reported by Ahmad to have said.

An astounded Ahmad tried to ask her fellow passengers to support her claim, but unfortunately she only received more abuse.

A man sitting in the opposite aisle yelled at her saying; “you Muslim, you need to shut the F** up."

The 31 year-old responded by saying, "What?!"

The man apparently leaned over, looked her in the eye and said: "Yes you know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the f**k up."

Fighting back tears so as to not cause a scene, Ahmad said she was shocked no one came to her defense, and that other people just shook their heads in dismay.

Horrified social media users have been voting with their feet and wallets after the scandal broke, with a number of passengers saying they will never fly with United Airlines again. Others have written messages of support for Ahmad on Twitter, under the hashtag, #unitedfortahera.

Ahmad, who says she has been a victim of Islamophobia on previous occasions, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the flight attendant’s behavior was particularly patronizing because she was “publically targeted as a threat to people.”

“That is a very horrible feeling,” said Ahmad, who later added the flight attendant in question did apologize to her.

“The flight attendant also acknowledged that the man who yelled at me was wrong for doing so and apologized that her behavior led to that. She acknowledged it was unethical and said he never should have said anything,” she said.

Ahmad also mentioned that once the plane had landed, the pilot came up to her and apologized for what had happened and personally took her to the service desk so she could file a complaint.

A spokesman for United Airlines, Charles Hobart, told newspaper the airline was trying to contact Ahmad in order to “get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight.” Hobart added United was discussing the alleged incident with Shuttle America, United’s regional partner and operator of the flight.