- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2015

A Muslim chaplain at Chicago’s Northwestern University has prompted calls for a boycott against United Airlines after she claimed she was discriminated against over a can of Diet Coke.

Tahera Ahmad, 31, said she was wearing a hijab aboard a United flight Friday from Chicago to Washington, where she was attending a conference promoting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youths, CNN reported.

She said she asked a flight attendant for an unopened can of soda, to which the attendant refused. Ms. Ahmad said she then witnessed the same attendant hand an unopened can of beer to a man seated nearby.

“We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane,” Ms. Ahmad recalled the flight attendant telling her, after she pointed out the man with the beer.

The chaplain said the flight attendant then quickly opened the man’s beer and said, “it’s so you don’t use it as a weapon.”

Shocked, Ms. Ahmad said she asked other passengers if they had seen what happened.

That’s when a man sitting across the aisle allegedly turned to her and said, “You Muslim, you need to shut the [expletive] up.”

“I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes,” Ms. Ahmad wrote in a Facebook post. “I can’t help but cry … because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay.”

After her initial post, supporters took to social media with the #unitedfortahera hashtag and pledged to boycott United, CNN reported.

Ms. Ahmad said that the flight attendant later apologized and acknowledged that the male passenger’s comments were inappropriate. The pilot of the aircraft also personally escorted her to file a complaint with United, she said. United spokesman Charles Hobart said in an initial statement that the airline “strongly supports diversity and inclusion.”

United officials said they spoke to the chaplain Saturday afternoon to apologize “for not delivering the service our customers expect when traveling with us,” CNN reported.

A flight attendant had tried several times to accommodate Ms. Ahmad’s beverage request, but there was a “misunderstanding,” Mr. Hobart said in a statement, without elaborating further, CNN reported.

Ms. Ahmad later wrote on social media that she was “truly disappointed” with the airline’s response, which she said “disregarded and trivialized” the discrimination she experienced, CNN reported.

“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,” she wrote. “This is not about a can of soda.”

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