LONDON: A Muslim woman was arrested and escorted from an American Airlines flight after an altercation with another passenger who said he did not “feel comfortable” with her presence, the Independent newspaper reported.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a political activist who founded the website Muslim Girl and was the first Muslim woman to run in New Jersey for a seat in the US Congress, said the man cut ahead of her in a line going through airport security ahead of a domestic flight on Nov. 14.
“I had the craziest experience in TSA (Transportation Security Administration) this morning,” she tweeted, adding that the other passenger had placed his luggage ahead of hers to be checked before skipping the queue to pass through a metal detector.
“When I said he could wait like everyone else, he started going off about how he’s ‘pre check’ and ‘first class’,” she said.
“Y’all know if I, a VEILED MUSLIM WOMAN, had the audacity to throw a temper tantrum and run through TSA security, I would have gotten BODIED,” she added. “I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc.”
Al-Khatahtbeh said airport security staff told her to “cut it out,” and when she boarded the flight she was asked to leave.
A member of airport security was seen telling her, in a video shared on social media, that a passenger had complained that they did not “feel comfortable” with her being on board, to which she responded: “I don’t feel comfortable with that passenger being here. I’d like that passenger removed.”
Another passenger tweeted: “Had to get off my flight because a man asked a Muslim woman to get off the plane. @AmericanAir employees followed his request and gave the woman no explanation.”
Police officers boarded the plane to escort Al-Khatahtbeh off. She was reportedly taken briefly into custody, before being released without charge.
An American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement: “Initial witness accounts indicate the conflict began during TSA screening. Both PreCheck and non-PreCheck screening were consolidated into one open lane.
“Our understanding is that Ms Al-Khatahtbeh believed the other passenger, who is enrolled in PreCheck, was getting favorable treatment because he was allowed to proceed through security while she was removing her shoes.
“This led to a verbal altercation that continued through the terminal and on the plane, where Ms Al-Khatahtbeh confronted the passenger and began filming him before taking her seat.”
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “The airline must immediately explain why it singled out Amani by contacting the police and ejecting her from a flight based on the word of a man who had allegedly harassed her.”