by David Harding & Joel Landau, New York Daily News
United Airlines has been accused of discrimination after refusing to give an unopened can of Diet Coke to a female Muslim passenger.
Tahera Ahmad, 31, said in a post on her Facebook page that the flight attendant was “clearly discriminating against me” after giving the male passenger seated next to her an unopened can of beer.
She did not respond to the Daily News’ request for comment.
Ahmad, who is the Muslim chaplain at Northwestern University, said that in the ensuing argument, one of her fellow passengers told her: “You (are) Moslem, you need to shut the f–k up.”
The alleged incident happened as she asked for the can of pop on a flight from Chicago to Washington on Friday. Ahmad was traveling to attend an interfaith event for KIDS4PEACE to promote peaceful conversations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ahmad was given one can that had already been opened, but said she wanted an unopened can for hygienic reasons.
But she said she was told by the flight attendant: “Well, I’m sorry. I just can’t give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you.”
Ahmad said she then pointed out that the man next to her had just been handed an unopened beer and told the attendant she was being discriminated against. The employee then quickly opened her neighbor’s beer can.
The flight attendant then told the passenger: “We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”
Asking other passengers for help, she was then told to “shut the f–k up,” Ahmad claimed.
“I can’t help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something,” she wrote in the post. “Some people just shook their heads in dismay. “#IslamophobiaISREAL”
But people on the Internet have supported her and the post had received nearly 7,000 shares as of Sunday morning. Some Twitter users pledged to boycott the airline and are sharing a picture of a can of Diet Coke with the hashtag #unitedfortahera.
United said in a statement issued Saturday night that the flight attendant on Shuttle America flight 3504 attempted “several times” to accommodate Ahmad’s request and there was an initial misunderstanding.
They also said the flight’s crew talked to her when they arrived and the company further reached out Saturday afternoon to apologize to her.
“We look forward to having the opportunity to welcome Ms. Ahmad back,” United said.
A United spokesman declined additional comment to the Daily News.
But Ahmad said in another post early Sunday morning that she was “truly disappointed” by the company’s response, which she said labeled the incident as a can of soda-specific issue and did not addressed the bias she said she encountered.
“It is ridiculing to my integrity to dismiss the discriminatory behavior towards me,” she said. “It is truly disheartening when the discrimination of Americans as myself who are working hard every day to promote dialogue and understanding is disregarded and trivialized.”
Ahmad said she was still waiting for 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,” she said. “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 discriminatory 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.”