A Muslim activist was removed from an American Airlines flight and detained for four hours after she reportedly confronted a first class passenger over alleged special treatment.
The incident happened on Saturday when Amani al-Khatahtbeh, a congressional candidate and founder of Muslimgirl.com, attempted to travel from Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina.
According to a statement from American Airlines, the incident between Al-Khatahtbeh and an unidentified white passenger began during TSA screening.
American Airlines indicated that her arrest came after the on-plane confrontation, but her brother and the New Jersey chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations said al-Khatahtbeh was handcuffed for refusing to remove her hijab.
‘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,’ the statement read.
‘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,’ the statement continued.
American Airlines added that both PreCheck and non-PreCheck screeming were consolidated into one open lane at the time.
Al-Khatahtbeh later shared her experience on Twitter. She said the man had her removed from the flight because she made him feel ‘uncomfortable’.
‘I had the craziest experience in TSA this morning. An entitled white man behind me insisted on cutting me in line because I was ‘still taking my shoes off.’ When I said he could wait like everyone else, he started going off about how he’s ‘pre check’ and ‘first class”, she told her 28,000 followers.
‘He then proceeded to not only shove his things before mine, but then RUN THROUGH THE MACHINE and TSA did NOTHING! Not only did they not do anything, a TSA officer had the audacity to tell ME to ‘cut it out”.
‘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. I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc.’
Later al-Khatahtbeh updated her followers on the unfolding situation by tweeting: ‘Guys he made a complaint about me and @American is attempting to remove me from the flight.’
She then tweeted the airline directly stating: ‘ONE OF YOUR MANAGERS IS TRYING TO GET POLICE TO REMOVE ME OFF 9:55 EWR (Newark Liberty Airport) TO CHARLOTTE.’
Al-Khatahtbeh shared a photo of police escorting her off the plane, saying ‘Simply flying as a Muslim woman makes people uncomfortable…. unbelievable.’
On Facebook Live, she posted a video showing all passengers disembarking the plane after she and the man both refused to leave.
Her brother later shared an update on Twitter saying that he was en route to Newark Liberty to try and find further information.
He and CAIR-NJ executive director Selaedin Maksut both claimed that Al-Khatahtbeh was only handcuffed after she refused to remove her hijab.
‘@Amani2020 was handcuffed by EWR police officers bc she refused to take her hijab off during processing. Muslim woman should not have to endure such humiliation bc they hold firm to their religious beliefs. Do better,’ wrote Maskut.
‘Only after our @CAIRNJ attorney asked to speak with EWR Port Authority police did they remove the handcuffs and allow for @Amani202 to remain in the cell with her hijab.’
Additional footage of the incident was taken and shared by an American Airline passenger who witnessed it.
The passenger also shared video footage of al-Khatahtbeh speaking with airline crew and police before she was booted off the aircraft.
Al-Khatahtbeh became the the first Muslim woman in New Jersey to run for federal office when she announced she was seeking to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District during the 2020 election. She was unsuccessful.
The activist – was named one of the 25 most influential Muslim Americans by CNN – is the founder of the blog MuslimGirl.com.
American Airlines added in its statement: ‘We are aware of an incident that took place between two passengers before and during boarding of flight 2029 at Newark Liberty International Airport. We are concerned by these allegations and our team is working to understand what occurred.’