The Ridiculous Reason A Muslim Woman Was Kicked Off A Flight

Photo: E.J. Baumeister Jr./Alamy.
Update: Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy Kim said, "Information collected at the time of the event indicates that our employees followed proper procedures in response to this customer's interaction with another passenger, while onboard the aircraft." King said Abdulle was booked on a later flight and arrived at her final destination about four hours behind schedule.

This story was originally published on April 16 at 4:30 p.m.

A Muslim woman says she was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after she asked to switch seats with her neighbor, according to The Independent.

Hakima Abdulle was traveling to meet a family member in Seattle via a connecting flight in Chicago, where she was kicked off the flight. Abdulle had asked the man in the seat next to her if he was willing to swap seats, so she could be on the aisle. He agreed, but after the swap, a flight attendant approached and said they were not allowed to move seats. Southwest Airlines does not have an assigned seating policy and allows passengers to sit where they like.

Abdulle claims that when she asked why they couldn’t switch, the flight attendant gave her an inadequate response and then asked her to leave the plane. When police asked the flight attendant at the gate why Abdulle was being removed from the plane, the attendant reportedly said that she didn’t “feel comfortable” with her. Abdulle’s husband, speaking on his wife’s behalf in a press conference, said that the flight attendant could or would not explain to him why his wife was escorted off the plane. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling for an investigation into possible religious bias.

Allegations of racial profiling of Muslims is a continuing problem for airlines. In May of last year, a Muslim woman was denied a can of soda on a United Airlines flight, because the attendant feared she could “use it as a weapon.” In November, two men claimed they were singled out on a Southwest flight for speaking Arabic, according to The Guardian. And on Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported that a local Muslim family said that they plan to sue the same airline for kicking them off a plane after having trouble with their child’s booster seat.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that the organization received 65 complaints of civil rights discrimination in 2015, or about five-and-a-half per month. This year, the Department of Transportation is outpacing last year’s statistics, having received seven complaints per month so far in 2016. CAIR has released a foldable pamphlet advising Muslims on their rights as citizens, with a special section on how to deal with discrimination by airlines.
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