Muslim woman faced discrimination by flight attendant, passengers over unopened soda can

Published: May 31, 2015
Tahira Ahmad that faced discrimination aboard United Airlines. PHOTO: CNN

Tahira Ahmad that faced discrimination aboard United Airlines. PHOTO: CNN

A Muslim passenger aboard a United Airlines flight claimed she broke down into tears after she allegedly faced ‘unjust discrimination’ from a flight attendant and fellow passenger over an unopened can of soda on Friday. The incident sparked furor on social media with many people saying they may boycott the airlines unless it apologises.

Tahera Ahmad, a chaplain at the Northwestern University, had requested some Diet Coke when the attendant asked if she would like a drink. She was served an unopened for an unopened can of the popular soda.

Concerned about hygiene, Ahmad requested an unopened can of the beverage. But her request was turned down by the attendant who told her they were ‘unauthorised’ to give unopened cans to any passenger because they could be ‘used as a weapon.’

Moments later, the attendant served an unopened beverage can to a man sitting a few seats ahead of Ahmad. Seeing this, she questioned the attendant and complained that she was being discriminated against.

“It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon,” Ahmad said the attendant repeated. But when the chaplain pointed out that the man had been served an unopened can, in violation of the airline’s policy, the attendant quickly moved to open the can.

Offended, Ahmad sought support from other passengers.But she did not get the response she was hoping for.

A man sitting across the aisle turned to her and yelled, “You Muslim, you need to shut the f*** up,” Ahmad claimed.


The man, in an enraging voice, said: “”Yes, you know you would use it as a weapon. So shut the f*** up,” Ahmad further claimed.

Ahmad used the in-flight internet to narrate the incident on her Facebook profile, saying it had reduced her to tears. “I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes.”

The post quickly went viral across social media. While her Facebook post seemed to have been removed late on Saturday, its screenshots continued to go viral. Supporters gathered under the hashtag #unitedfortahera.

Some United customers said that they will boycott the airline till it apologises to Ahmad and trains its crew better.

After the incident, Charles Hobart, a spokesperson for United Airlines, said that they had a policy of inclusion and supporting diversity.

“We and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers,” an official statement from the airlines said. “We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight.”

“We are also discussing the matter that Ms. Ahmad describes with Shuttle America, our regional partner that operated the flight. We look forward to speaking with Ms. Ahmad and hope to have the opportunity to welcome her back.”

Ahmad, 31, is a frequent-flier with United, said on Saturday that she had not yet been contacted by the airline.

Reportedly, both the flight attendant and pilot later apologised to her for their conduct.

The incident comes armed bikers staged a protest against Islam outside a mosque in Phoenix, Arizona. Tensions grew when counter-protesters showed up at the venue to voice their support for the local Muslim community and police had to be deployed between them to prevent any untoward incident.

This article originally appeared on CNN

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Reader Comments (74)

  • Bairooni Haath
    May 31, 2015 - 7:10AM

    Can’t really blame the Flight Attendant. This lady looks dangerous with her clothes and her bad attitude.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    May 31, 2015 - 7:40AM

    Cabin crew of PIA and middle eastern airlines are very rude with expatriate working class returning from middle east. They provide very little water in paper glasses and those unfortunate who request some more are rudely refused. Its a fact that we Muslims discriminate with our own people many times more than we face discrimination from non Muslims.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    May 31, 2015 - 8:23AM

    They will still do business with Muslims, buy oil from them and would keep on offending and abusing them. Recommend

  • May 31, 2015 - 8:32AM

    how an unopened can of soda can be used as weapon? we should do proper research, so that we could save our self from soda bombers in future. can anyone shed some lightRecommend

  • May 31, 2015 - 9:28AM

    M/s Tahera Ahmed the flight attendant and the air lines may have apologized but the policy itself indicates the phobia of using an un opened can as weapon.. The records of violent incidents on board of a plane relates to followers of Islam . So the image is already there to be vigilant on Muslim flyers and this is not going to change in the near future. Recommend

  • ahmed wani
    May 31, 2015 - 9:37AM

    If u look at most people re-tweeting..they are recent converts….now u can know….brainwashing..Recommend

  • rajesh
    May 31, 2015 - 10:30AM

    Why do you always feel discriminated? Why always complaining? So what if the can was open? There is a lot of terrorism nowadays and people are afraid. Dont add fuel to the fire. Recommend

  • Toba Alu
    May 31, 2015 - 10:50AM

    I have been warning for this phenomenon for a long time. However, Muslims fail to underdstand what is really happening. As long as Muslims want to be recognised as Muslims in the public space, demand places of worship, open Halal shops, ask for Sharia, and as long as we daily hear about atrocities committed in the name of Islam, and Muslims joining IS, you will be guilty by association. This is how the human mind works, not the law. Claiming the public space, especially in Europe, where many only recently have liberated themselves from ages of the reign by their traditional religions, it is not surprising that Europeans feel antipathy towards any group that wants to reverse their newly found freedoms. Secondly, nobody would care if it would be just a very small group. But 50 million Muslims in Europe is not small especially because these groups are concentrated in the bigger cities. Please try to understand that you cannot use the freedoms of the West to demand a Muslim way of living in the public square. This combined with other statistics such as overrepresentation in prisons and the dole, higher birth rates, lower education, etc. etc. makes accepting Muslim exceptionalism under the disguise of democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, anti-discrimination legislation, etc. impossible. Better realise it now rather than playing the victim. You look like a Muslim, you behave like a Muslim, you believe as a Muslim, that is the rule in Muslim majority countries and now you will also be treated as a Muslim in Europe. Public apologies by companies or individuals for misbehavior as in this story, is not going to help as they are not changing their feelings and mindset. For now most Muslims in Europe are still protected by the law. But more and disguised legislation is being passed in Europe to stop expanding Muslim exceptionalism.Recommend

  • Ibby
    May 31, 2015 - 11:13AM

    Truly sad event. The America is not what it used to be. But again, these sort of actions can be mitigated and there are steps which are taken by the corporation for the fear of being sued for millions of dollars for discrimination. What can not be repaired is the trust, and also some ignorant people like the racist man that yelled at her, is what the real problem is, in America. These are the ignorant low educated, racists that present the real danger and need to be educated and confronted, either on online, whenever you see such Anti-Islam comments on in real life when you see someone threatening another Muslim person, specially in America or Europe. Cowering down, and accepting such abusive language is not the answer, we Muslims that live in US, have to stand up to these ignorant bullies, many times they are just misinformed, and they only understand rough talk. But need to be careful on the street, if someone is taunting you, you need to ignore them, because that person might be armed and dangerous. Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 31, 2015 - 11:15AM

    Lady wanted Soda Can or create drama. FA acted in the safety of passengers, even though that was discriminatory. Lady should have taken opened can or become secular.
    These incidents and reaction will create more rifts.Recommend

  • John
    May 31, 2015 - 12:10PM

    She should have asked for a Pepsi.Recommend

  • Foaad
    May 31, 2015 - 12:12PM

    this all would have been avoided if she had just asked for a can of beerRecommend

  • Saad
    May 31, 2015 - 12:30PM

    @Bairooni Haath there is no place for racist people like you in 2015Recommend

  • May 31, 2015 - 12:31PM

    @Bairooni Haath: Where is the bad attitude? Wearing a headscarf is dangerous? What about the man who used expletives? He is not to blame for insulting a woman when he could have offered his services to open the can? Whoever, you are…please look at the world with both eyes. Have a nice day. SalamsRecommend

  • Critic
    May 31, 2015 - 12:42PM

    Meh, I’d take the opened can and have it Recommend

  • unbelievable
    May 31, 2015 - 1:03PM

    The fellow passenger who cursed at the lady was out of line. However the flight attendant was doing her job and those who fly on a regular basis will testify that flight attendants will bring a can to your seat but open it before they leave – that’s policy whether your Muslim, Christian or whatever. Recommend

  • Ishrat salim
    May 31, 2015 - 2:08PM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    On what basis is your observation based ? You know what looks is dangerous ? You are nothing but biased and prejudice towards woman in hijab, that is all that i can think of you now. Recommend

  • Mohammed
    May 31, 2015 - 2:14PM

    If you were treated badly,then what would you have done. That’s call racial discrimination, you mustn’t judge people by their looks. I stand with TaheraRecommend

  • ahmed wani
    May 31, 2015 - 2:16PM

    I find nothing wrong in this….ask a arabian or KPK in pakistan..women…what is dicriminationRecommend

  • vidhya
    May 31, 2015 - 2:40PM

    It’s fear of unknown and reflect pathetic white men n women miserable mental state of mind. It further reflects how they are afraid of their own past global atrocities on blacks n other colored people. This lady needs to slap United Airline with few million law suit, this is the only language people them understand.Recommend

  • Jalal
    May 31, 2015 - 2:49PM

    Muslim woman faced discrimination by flight attendant, passengers over unopened soda can

    Name one Muslim country were they do not discriminate against Muslims and non-Muslims alike? She complains too much. May be move to a Muslim country to really get it.Recommend

  • mohsin
    May 31, 2015 - 3:21PM

    I am amazed at people on this forum, that instead of supporting this lady, they are giving thumbs up against her. What kind of liberal people are here in this country, where an innocent person is openly abused on an airline, and people are just applauding the person cursing.Recommend

  • Deborah DeWitt
    May 31, 2015 - 3:49PM

    Tahera Ahmad’s late night Facebook post began “I am sitting on a United airlines flight in the air 30,000ft above and i am in tears of humiliation from discrimination.” Her 20 line description of what happened concludes with “#IslamophobiaISREAL” But how real is Tahera Ahmad’s interpretation of what happened?

    As usual, the incident was picked up immediately my the American Muslim propaganda machine and rapidly spun out of control before United had a chance to respond. Anyone who carefully scrutinizes Ahmad’s account, ignoring the emotional embroidery, will realize what really happened.



  • A-No.1
    May 31, 2015 - 4:00PM

    “Tahera Ahmad, a chaplain at the Northwestern University”
    I thought a “Chaplain” was a Christian priest. If ms Ahmad is a Christian, the discrimination was against her head gear and why was she wearing one in the first place?Recommend

  • Truth Detector
    May 31, 2015 - 5:00PM

    Nauseating to see Indian trolls defending discrimination. What a toady, sycophants !!!
    Tahera should sue. Law will be in her side. Recommend

  • kanishka
    May 31, 2015 - 6:27PM

    Passengers, now brace yourself for a new rule:


  • jeet
    May 31, 2015 - 6:27PM


  • MA
    May 31, 2015 - 7:09PM

    Oh please wake up and smell the coffee. So what if you get a opened can of drink!! Try flying one the “muslim” airlines and see if you get any better service. If you move to the west for peace of mind and better living then accept the terms of the western country you are in. You wouldn’t have gotten this much media coverage any where else in the world.Recommend

  • Shamsi Mehboob
    May 31, 2015 - 7:16PM

    @Bairooni Haath: Just one thought; perhaps the man who was served the unopened bottle of beer was actually an Air Marshal ?Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath
    May 31, 2015 - 7:26PM

    If Ms. Tahera Ahmad been living in some Muslim country, she would not have been allowed inside the Mosque, let alone become the “chaplain”. I guess calling herself Mullah will not go down very well with her fellow Muslims. When these people land in liberalized western countries, they suddenly become aware of all their rights knowing they will get some free publicity about their being discriminated against. Why not stay in your own country and fight for minority rights or women’s rights!Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath
    May 31, 2015 - 7:27PM

    If you look like Taliban and behave like Taliban, expect people to treat you like Taliban!Recommend

  • abhi
    May 31, 2015 - 8:04PM

    too many cry baby moment here.
    You really don’t know what descimination means.Recommend

  • Allah Ditta
    May 31, 2015 - 8:13PM

    Unopened can and asked for support from other passengers. The young lady should have known that it is an American value to not to get involved in others matter. The flight attendant’s response was not wrong and there is no violation of FDA/airlines rules if someone else opens soda can for you. Get a life, this is America. Live in Rome as Romans liveRecommend

  • Zahid Jamil
    May 31, 2015 - 8:51PM

    Has any journalist sought any sources or corroborated this the story that disappeared from Facebook to ascertain if it was true or a gag? For instance contacted this lady or United?Recommend

  • Jalal
    May 31, 2015 - 9:14PM

    Now she’ll get a hefty compensation from the Airlines. Recommend

  • fappy
    May 31, 2015 - 9:34PM

    Come back to Pakistan!Recommend

  • Tlaw
    May 31, 2015 - 9:43PM

    We have had 50,000 American injurys 16,000 seriously..and 6,650 deaths of American soldiers with loving family’s….All over a war that your religion created, not to mention the cost of $$$$$$$$$. And you think your where discriminated on a plane because you refused to have the stewardess open it for you.You forgot to mention that she opened his beer ..I know this because my friend was in that flight……Come on Americans wake up please before it’s too late..Recommend

  • Weirdity
    May 31, 2015 - 9:50PM

    I find it hypocritical that people from a country in which woman can’t even vote in some parts is talking about discrimination with regards to a unopened soda can. No shame or introspection at all.Recommend

  • Support the truth!
    May 31, 2015 - 10:04PM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    Your respond is more dangerous n shows such a low thinking you have… how would you feel if you are treated this way!!!!!! You paid same amount and you gettin treated differently compare to others and awful comments made by people around u instead hoping to get some support. Just cuz some people have white skin, it doesnt give them liberty to say or do anything. Recommend

  • Munir
    May 31, 2015 - 10:11PM

    I have flown globally to over 50 countries, in all classes of various airlines as a passenger. Canned beverages are normally served in some kind of glasses. Most of the times, cans were served opened by the attendants. To offer sealed can is normally an exception.
    We should not raise discrimination and or Islamophibia all the times.
    As per this news, the attendant did open the can, and that should have ended the story. Unless the attendant was rude, and that is a different grievance. Thanks.Recommend

  • Munir
    May 31, 2015 - 10:16PM

    I have traveled to over 50 countries in various classes with diverse airlines. Canned beverages are normally served opened in goblets etc. Cans are normally served opened
    The attendant did explain, and both the pilot and attendant apologized.
    We should not raise Islamophobia and discrimination at every occasion.
    However if the attendant was rude, then that is another grievance. Though it appears that Pilot/attendant did offer apology. Recommend

  • observer
    May 31, 2015 - 11:42PM

    She will now milk this for a few million dollars. If she is sincere about her hurt, she shouldn’t seek and take any monetary compensation.Recommend

  • cautious
    Jun 1, 2015 - 12:09AM

    Chaplains are suppose to peacefully resolve conflict on a face to face basis – not use Social Media to whine and raise a ruckus which might have unintended consequences.Recommend

  • Sun Tzu
    Jun 1, 2015 - 12:58AM

    Muslims are causing mayhem in the world. On top of that they also have a ‘victim mentality’ – witness creating a global furore over a coke can!! I would have quietly taken a open one. That’s the problem – they will play the victim card and search where they are being discriminated. Why doesnot she go back to Saudi or wherever she came from? Oh, she won’t be allowed to drive, let alone travel in a place alone……!Hypocrites!Recommend

  • Asif
    Jun 1, 2015 - 1:01AM

    What she really wanted was free diet Coke with whisky during flight.Recommend

  • observer
    Jun 1, 2015 - 1:19AM

    @Toba Alu:

    A well-written analysis of the truth. The corollary of what you have highlighted is the tiresome practice of victim-hood. The interesting part is that while Muslims are so vocal in the claim of victim-hood, they, at the same time, migrate to non-muslim countries at ever larger numbers.Recommend

    Jun 1, 2015 - 1:22AM

    Complaining of such attitude will not help. The only thing which may bring change in such rude behaviour towards Muslim is to get united. Recommend

  • Sid
    Jun 1, 2015 - 1:34AM

    I am absolutely disgusted and disappointed by some of the comments from my fellow Indians. None of you guys have any idea about what the lady went through, and your vile remarks advising her to ‘deal with it’ and to actually blame her are insensitive and reeks of pure hatred. I am appalled at the lack of intellectual reasoning and debate by most Indian posters ( not all). You guys are hijacking rationality with vile, juvenile and schandenfruede comments. Recommend

  • AmericanMuse
    Jun 1, 2015 - 2:03AM

    Northwestern University should thoroughly reprimand their chaplain, Tahera Ahmad, for this sort of unnecessary behavior. Recommend

  • ajeet
    Jun 1, 2015 - 2:10AM

    She should not let go of this matter and renounce her US citizenship and move to pure Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia where everyone is treated equally, including Muslims who are a bit different from the rest.
    The world has had enough with the double standards of Muslims and this is going to increase.Recommend

  • SaneVoice
    Jun 1, 2015 - 3:10AM

    wow talk about Bhaarteez obsession with Pakistanis and Muslims, First free our pigeon and then share ur gibberish ok?Recommend

  • assad
    Jun 1, 2015 - 3:31AM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    And you certainly look to have an IQ of 2.Recommend

  • assad
    Jun 1, 2015 - 3:32AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    And that makes it right for others to abuse Muslim? What kind of illogical idiocy are you ranting about?Recommend

  • 54321
    Jun 1, 2015 - 3:47AM
  • Bairuni haath Indeed
    Jun 1, 2015 - 5:06AM

    These countries atleast dont market and project themselves as the heavens of freedoms and exceptionalism all over the world like US does.Recommend

  • Shakil Khan
    Jun 1, 2015 - 6:10AM

    discrimination starts from getting a boarding card for any plane inside US or towards/away from US.
    You will be “randomly” selected for extra security checks at each and every point if your name is Muslim! Recommend

  • Mohsin aziz
    Jun 1, 2015 - 6:40AM

    I am extremely disappointed to see the comments of our fellow muslim brothers and my indian brothers.A women is a women which may be your mother and which may be your sister let me define you discrimination is some thing not treating some one the same way u treat any one else i have seen stupid comments of indian let me also explain u india stands on number 4 country with the highest percentage of rapes and you talk about womens literacy rate in india is worst and you talk about education u burry womens alive and you talk about unjustice you blownyour women with fire once her husband dies a term called sati and you show world how organize you people are come on brothers.A women is a women either my sister in india or pakistan or usa.We all must stand united for this kind of stupid behaviour of airline it could be somenone from your family because brown skin dont mean muslims only it could be a hindu sikh or christian I STAND FOR TAHIRARecommend

  • SMD
    Jun 1, 2015 - 7:24AM

    Amazing: an unopened can, can be used as weapon by a Muslim only? and we see people here criticizing Tahera.
    @those who are not supporting Tahera for any reason, pl explain are you with the majority of Muslims who condemn violence or with the minority which believes in it?
    It is time for the western leaders to show some decency towards majority Muslims who have remained a silent spectator of Afghan and Iraq drama staged by western powers in sync with Muslim minority be it IS or AQ, at times they are invited to White House and declared an ally and at times they are enemy number 1. What about the majority which suffers anti Islam actions by equally unaware non Muslim community which is baffled by propaganda.Recommend

  • Amer
    Jun 1, 2015 - 8:37AM

    The Indian trolls writing none sense here need to remember: SHE WAS BORN IN INDIA.
    What the heck has Pakistan got to do with anything ? Recommend

  • JPeterson
    Jun 1, 2015 - 10:32AM

    Muslims are threatening to boycott United Airlines.
    We have officially found the safest airliner in the world.Recommend

  • Kuri
    Jun 1, 2015 - 10:50AM

    I have never been served can they normally pour it in cup for you. And I feel its no big deal, the airlines is responsible to watch the safety measures, although I do think the airhostess was rude and could’ve prevented to use “being used as a weapon” reason.Recommend

  • Amir
    Jun 1, 2015 - 11:11AM


    LOL. So true. Awesome comment Bro.Recommend

  • SMD
    Jun 1, 2015 - 11:35AM

    @ajeet: would you advise same to the victims of rape in India?Recommend

  • Seadorff
    Jun 1, 2015 - 11:37AM


    I am sure with this so called boycott United Airlines business will increase manifold. Non-Muslims will prefer UA as a show of solidarity.Recommend

  • turtlehead
    Jun 1, 2015 - 11:40AM

    this lady is a over reacting to the core, everyone in the world only gets open cans on board any airline. No one gets unopened cans, if they do its by mistake…so chill out and stop playing the victim card all the time ! its nauseating now !! Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Jun 1, 2015 - 11:47AM

    While I condemn the behaviour of the fellow passenger who abused her, I feel she has made mountain of a molehill. I feel it is always better to be on side of caution. I being a Sikh, have got my turban checked many a times at Airports. Should I feel humiliated by it? Why? Passenger safety is far more important than religious discrimination.
    And all this hallaboo over whether a can should be served open or unopened!!Recommend

  • Muslim American
    Jun 1, 2015 - 12:25PM

    I think this is a case of hyper sensitive niqab women who carry a sense of victim hood on their sleeves. Every airline in the US (due to low low fares) does not serve a full can to save fuel from dead weight load on planes. White, Brown, Black and Yellow get unopened cans and get the same answer as this lady got. Only the color green (currency) matters in America. No money no honey. Next time travel in first class instead of cattle class.Recommend

  • SMD
    Jun 1, 2015 - 1:05PM

    @Tony Singh: Its not about a can open or open its about a passenger being refused for it might be used as a weapon and another getting it opened. Its not related to religion, gender or anything but simple why in same flight one passenger can get it differently while other is refused. ANd that passenger I guess he is minority one should not stoop to his level, there are some everywhere.Recommend

  • Kokab
    Jun 1, 2015 - 2:26PM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    You are racist. Get a life. This Girl Tahira could have been your sister, mom , cousin. Would you have said the same racist comment if it was your sister???Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Jun 1, 2015 - 4:57PM

    The air hostess made an error in not opening the can of the other passenger. On being pointed out by the lady in question, she corrected the error. What is the fuss about? Yes the behaviour of the fellow passenger is condemnable. Apart from that the whole issue is a non issue.
    Compare this with a blog written by a lady in this very newspaper on being thrown out of school for not wearing a burqa. What does one say about muslim society at large? I leave it to your judgement to draw your own conclusion.Recommend

  • Asif
    Jun 1, 2015 - 8:45PM

    I’m a troll. I can write anything i like, comment anyway i wish and take up any name i wish. Indian trolls aal over again.Recommend

  • abdul da putar
    Jun 2, 2015 - 6:29AM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    No kidding? She would look much better in Lard like you. Sort of helpless but cuteRecommend

  • SMD
    Jun 3, 2015 - 7:16AM

    @JPeterson and Amir: bienvenue safest airline.

    About 150 United Airlines flights were grounded Tuesday morning because of an automation issue, a Federal Aviation Administration advisory says.

    United spokesman Charles Hobart said the temporary delays began at about 8 a.m. Central time and lasted until roughly 8:40 a.m.. The ground stop affected roughly eight percent of the airline’s morning schedule, he said.Recommend

  • SMD
    Jun 3, 2015 - 7:18AM

    @Tony Singh:
    Agreed with the first part but read the story carefully you mentioned, she was not thrown out she opted out, and please be reminded many have opted to stay and continue. I wonder why you Indians are so interested in such stories, why dont you just read about Pakistan’s missile launch capability and targets etc.Recommend

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