Muslim passenger Tahera Ahmad refused Diet Coke 'weapon' on US flight


A Muslim chaplain has claimed she was the victim of discrimination aboard a US flight after being refused an unopened can of drink by a flight attendant who told her it could be used "as a weapon".

Tahera Ahmad, identified online as head of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University in Chicago, was told she couldn't have an unopened can by the United Airlines attendant, who allegedly said: "I'm sorry, I just can't give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you."

After the man next to her on the flight from Chicago to Washington was served an unopened can of beer, Ms Ahmad inquired again. She said she was told: "We are unauthorised to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane."

Muslim woman Tahera Ahmad claims she was subjected to discrimination on a US flight.
Muslim woman Tahera Ahmad claims she was subjected to discrimination on a US flight.Photo: Facebook

"So I told her that she was clearly discriminating against me, because she gave the man next to me an unopened can of beer," Ms Ahmad wrote on her Facebook page.

"She looked at his can, quickly grabbed it and opened it and said, 'It's so you don't use it as a weapon'."

The incident sparked calls for a Muslim boycott of United Airlines, as sympathetic readers tweeted under the hashtag: #UnitedForTahera. 

The inflight controversy comes as fears of discrimination in the US Muslim community run high.

Over the weekend, a rally was held outside a Phoenix mosque, during which anti-Muslim protesters were separated by police from religious-freedom supporters.

The rally was held weeks after two men died in an attack at a prophet Muhammad cartoon drawing event near Dallas.

In Ms Ahmad's case, the incident deteriorated after she asked fellow passengers if they had witnessed the "discriminatory and disgusting behaviour". A man sitting across the aisle allegedly yelled: "You Muslim, you need to shut the f--- up."

Ms Ahmad wrote on Facebook that the man "looked me straight in the eyes and said, 'yes, you know you would use it as a weapon, so shut the f--- up".

The post concludes with the hashtag #ISlamophobiaISREAL. It received nearly 8000 shares.

In a May 30 post on United Airlines' media page, the airline wrote: "The flight attendant onboard Shuttle America flight 3504 attempted several times to accommodate Ms Ahmad's beverage request after a misunderstanding regarding a can of diet soda."

"The inflight crew met with Ms Ahmad after the flight arrived in Washington to provide assistance and further discuss the matter," the release said. 

The airline said it spoke to Ms Ahmad "to get a better understanding of what occurred" and it apologised for not "delivering the service our customers expect when travelling with us".

The passenger lashed United Airlines' statement: "It is ridiculing to my integrity to dismiss the discrimatory behaviour towards me," she wrote in a further Facebook post.

"I have been patiently waiting to hear an acknowledgement of their discrimination vis-a-vis inconsistency in following procedure and then verbally accusing me of using a can of diet soda as a weapon, resulting and encouraging further hateful words by a passenger.

"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.

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

Ms Ahmad is listed as an associate chaplain at Northwestern University on a LinkedIn profile with no connections.

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