The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference this afternoon in Chicago to discuss the case of Northwestern University chaplain Tahera Ahmad, a Muslim woman who was recently denied an unopened can of soda on a United shuttle flight.
Ahmad recounted her in-flight experience on her Facebook page, but in short, a flight attendant refused to give her an unopened can of Diet Coke, explaining, “We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.” However, a man next to her was given an unopened can of beer, “So I told her that she was clearly discriminating against me”
Ahmad’s Facebook post drew international publicity and extensive media coverage. Recalling her experience for the Guardian, Ahmad concluded:
“Ferguson happened, ‘black lives matter’ happened, and what is it these minority groups were saying? They were saying: understand my pain; understand my injustice. There is a lot of pain there,” she continued. “And I think that’s why this story resonates with so many people.”
Ahmad is pushing for United Airlines to call this incident what many have joined her in calling it: discrimination, because “this is just one example of injustice that continues to happen and I cannot remain silent.”
United did issue a written apology, explaining that United itself did not operate the flight, and assuring that the Shuttle America flight attendant involved in the incident will no longer serve United customers. Ahmad explained in a lengthy Facebook post that she was “truly disappointed” with United’s statement.
This is not about a can of soda. I was really hoping that after speaking with me they would have publicly acknowledged their lack of consistency in following procedure, the flight attendant’s rude and discriminatory behavior and accusations which led to hateful words, and the unfortunate lack of bystander intervention nor the flight attendants attempt to intervene and prevent further disrespect which created an unsafe space for me. Instead of publishing an apology for the discrimination and clarifying what corrective measures they will take to ensure that they will prevent this from reoccurring, they have dismissed it as a mere can of soda issue.
Was United’s response sufficient?