By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) - A Muslim woman in the US was charged after she was pulled off an American Airlines flight following another passenger's request and later arrested while refusing to remove her hijab.
"Spoiler alert: it was, in fact, me who got charged. Go figure," Amani al-Khatahtbeh, 28, a Jordanian-American activist and blogger from the state of New Jersey, wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The Nov. 14 incident began at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey when Al-Khatahtbeh was at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint.
She said a white man behind her insisted that she was cutting in while she was still taking off her shoes.
"When I said he could wait like everyone else, he started going off about how he’s 'pre check' and 'first class'," Al-Khatahtbeh wrote.
"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'," 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. I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc. We need to resurrect the @muslimgirl #ShitTSASays column.”
Al-Khatahtbeh, the first Muslim woman to run for US Congress from the state and founder of the website, MuslimGirl, later continued tweeting while onboard the flight.
"ONE OF YOUR MANAGERS IS TRYING TO GET POLICE TO REMOVE ME OFF 9:55 EWR TO CHARLOTTE," she wrote.
But American Airlines responded via Twitter by saying, "Your comments concern us and we'd like to look into this. Please DM your record locator and what happened."
Next, Al-Khatahtbeh was being pulled from the flight. It was witnessed by a passenger who posted two videos on social media.
In one, Al-Khatahtbeh is heard saying that she would not be removed unless another person in first class was also moved, and she asks why his words are taken above hers. "If you're taking me off, you have to take both off us," she said.
In the second video, uniformed personnel approaches Al-Khatahtbeh's seat and tells her he is following instructions to escort her from the plane.
Al-Khatahtbeh stressed that she needs to be given a reason why she is being removed, and is informed: "There's a passenger onboard who does not feel comfortable with you being here."
"I do not feel comfortable with that passenger,” she said in response. “I want that passenger removed from the plane as well."
In a later tweet, the passenger who took the videos said, "Police escorted her off the plane in handcuffs!!, to which Al-Khatahtbeh replied ‘Simply flying as a Muslim woman makes people uncomfortable.... unbelievable.’”
Al-Khatahtbeh said she was asked to remove her hijab during her arrest but she repeatedly asserted her constitutional right to keep it on.
"I heard one cop ask another, 'Didn’t we have to deal with this w/ that Sikh guy the other day?' When you stand up for yourself & your rights, you do so for everyone after you," she wrote.
Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director of Council on American–Islamic Relations New Jersey, said via Twitter that Al-Khatahtbeh was handcuffed by police because "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," he added.
Al-Khatahtbeh later summarized the incident as "The last 6 hours of my life have been draining & traumatizing. Today I got arrested for the first time because a man that insisted he was 'first class' felt entitled to blow past me at TSA security, then have me removed from our @AmericanAir flight bc he 'felt uncomfortable.'”
The Muslim Girl website also detailed the incident, saying, "Other passengers began to yell at staff to have the man removed as well," according to a Facebook Live video Al-Khatahtbeh shared.