Quite a fizzy story

There will be versions and counter-versions galore. I don’t think we have the full story

Tanuj Garg June 10, 2015
The writer has been in top media and entertainment corporations in Bollywood for over a decade and can be found on twitter @tanuj_garg

The story went viral, naturally. Reportedly, the United Airlines air hostess who refused Tahera Ahmad an unopened can of Diet Coke, claimed she was doing her job. It was against her airline’s policy to hand out unopened cans because they might be used as weapons.

Yet, another passenger was provided an unopened can of beer, and seemingly, another got up to rain a torrent of abuses at Ms. Ahmad for being Muslim. Ms. Ahmad stated that she was shocked beyond words, traumatised and driven to tears.

The other side of the story is just as scary. A commentator at on FlyerTalk, who was on the same flight, called the incident a lie: “No one ever said anything anti-Muslim to her at all. She was the one who started screaming about discrimination… The flight attendant asked her numerous times if she would like anything else when the lady just basically pushed her away with a hand in her face. The lady then got on to her phone with her credit card and paid for the internet so she could start spinning this story on social media and she was never in tears. This person is a liar, plain and simple, and is just pulling the discrimination card.”

There will be versions and counter-versions galore. I don’t think we have the full story. There are no witness statements to verify her claims and we were not on the flight to know the real truth. If Ms Ahmad’s version is anything to go by, the incident is emblematic of religious discrimination the world over.

Like it or not, airline crews particularly on US short-haul routes, have become infamous for being insolent and insensitive. Moreover, there is no denying that the world is in the grip of Islamophobia, a paranoia which needs to be repaired and fast. Ironically, on the same day that this story broke, the US Supreme Court revived an employment discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, which had refused to hire a Muslim woman because she wore a headscarf.

Some have argued that Ms Ahmad’s reaction has to be taken with a sackful of salt. It may be pertinent to note that back in 2012, Ms Ahmad had a problem with the portrayal of Muslims as the bad guys in the Liam Neeson thrilller “Taken 2”. In a post on Facebook, she had expressed discomfort while walking out of the theatre, as people looked at her and whispered away to their company. By the look of it, nothing is safe enough for her.

While I can empathise with Ms Ahmad because I have been as much a victim of unnecessary discriminatory behaviour by a British airline, I would suggest some caution. Why make Everests out of molehills?

Regardless of which side of the story is correct, Ms Ahmad has made her point. Her Facebook post detailing the incident has been shared with dismay across the world. On Twitter, the hash-tag #UnitedForTahera has had a quarter of a million mentions so far. The story has bagged huge inevitable media attention and her fellow affluent Muslim speakers have rallied in her favour. For what it’s worth, the airline has tendered an apology and disciplined the flight attendant.

Ms Ahmad’s ‘credibility’ will be asserted, if at all, in moving on with grace. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were to use the incident to milk a few million dollars from a lawsuit. And I’d be surprised (but not disappointed) if the dismissed flight attendant files a lawsuit against the airline and Ms Ahmad, for being wrongfully de-rostered. The hoopla has just begun.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2015.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.


jamor | 6 years ago | Reply @Kolsat: I don't think she has lost her job.The airline only stated that she wont be serving in United Airlines They did not state that she was terminated.If the story was prolonged it would be a bad name for UA.So she was mae a scapegoat.UA had employed the flight attendant through an agency.This agency also serves other carriers.Most likely is that she was transferred to another airline
Kolsat | 6 years ago | Reply Muslims who have migrated to western nations to find a better and safer life always use an us and them attitude and go out of their way to flout every law the nation has. For example wearing hijab pr burqa or demanding a halal certification even for chocolate or milk. This lady could have easily accepted an opened can of drink. She should show in the Koran where it says that she should be served an unopened can of soda. She just seems to be a trouble maker and should be ignored. Just because of her complaint a person lost her job if this had happened to a Muslim all Muslim newspapers would have been flooded with cooments about racism in western world.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ


Most Read