Tahera Ahmad was in tears during a flight from Chicago to Washington. The reason? A can of soda that she says exposes just how present Islamophobia is in everyday life in the United States. The 31-year-old Muslim chaplain at Northwestern University had asked for an unopened can of Diet Coke for “hygienic reasons.” The flight attendant said no, and Ahmad insisted. “Well I’m sorry I just can’t give you an unopened can so no Diet Coke for you,” she was reportedly told, according to a Facebook post that quickly went viral.
Then things really heated up, after the flight attendant reportedly gave the man sitting next to her an unopened can of beer. When Ahmad asked about the discrepancy the flight attendant’s alleged response is jaw-on-the-floor shocking: “We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.” When Ahmad said she was being discriminated against, the flight attendant reached over and opened the beer can. Perhaps most distressing of all, her fellow passengers were of no help whatsoever. “You Moslem you need to shut the fuck up,” a passenger allegedly told her, when she asked her fellow passengers if they had witnessed the discriminating behavior.
“We and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers,” United Airlines said in a statement, according to CNN. “We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight.” In another statement, United described the incident as a “misunderstanding regarding a can of diet soda.” That led Ahmad to write another post saying she was “truly disappointed” by the way the airline has “dismissed my entire narrative and trivialized it to a can of soda.”
Social media quickly lit up with condemnation of the action and calls to boycott United Airlines.