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United flight attendant denies Muslim woman soda, feared weapon

A Northwestern University director of interfaith engagement and associate chaplain never expected to receive such harsh and discriminatory treatment on a recent United Airlines flight.

It’s no secret that airlines have been stingy when it comes to rolling out the red carpet for the average traveler. In addition to shelling out top dollar for checked baggage and to the general cost of a plane ticket, it now appears they have problems giving a canned beverage to passengers.

While university associate chaplain Tahera Ahmad might attest to this, her treatment on a recent United Airlines flight was nothing short of discrimination.Taking to social media, Ahmad, a Muslim woman, posted a disheartening Facebook message about a flight attendant’s refusal to provide her with an unopened can of Diet Coke.

The refusal came as a complete shock considering it’s not uncommon for a passenger to ask for an unopened beverage for the sake of hygiene. Typically an airline will oblige so long as it has enough for everyone.

That unfortunately was not the case in this situation.

“Well I’m sorry I just can’t give you an unopened can so no diet coke for you,” Tahera explained in her post. Shortly after refusing her request, the flight attendant handed the passenger next to her an unopened can of beer. Noticing a difference in treatment, Ahmad questioned the flight attendant’s actions that led to a very unexpected — and likely targeted — response.

“It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon,” snapped the flight attendant.

Feeling humiliated and in complete shock, Tahera began to ask people around her if they witnessed the discrimination she received. A nearby male passenger began cursing at her and yelled, “Yes you know you would use it as a WEAPON! You Moslem, you need to shut the F*** up.”

Since the altercation, many have taken to social media using the hashtag #unitedfortahera to express their opinion. While many comments have been against Tahera’s treatment, there have been quite a few that promote Islamophobia.

BuzzFeed News published the following statement from United Airlines:

“United is a company that strongly supports diversity and inclusion, and we and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers. We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight. We are also discussing the matter that Ms. Ahmad describes with Shuttle America, our regional partner that operated the flight.”

The airline also published a response on United Hub regarding the incident. Ironically it does not mention the flight attendant’s statement about unopened cans being used as weapons. Tahera posted a follow-up statement of her own that reveals United Airlines has yet to contact her.

It doesn’t matter if you think Tahera was being a snob for requesting an unopened can of soda. The fact that an excuse was given to one passenger while another received different treatment is definitely worth a raised eyebrow. Discrimination is very real and can be extremely hurtful.

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