American-born Muslim woman files discrimination case against Southwest Airlines

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Muslim US woman sues Southwest Airlines for religious discrimination after flight attendant ‘told her she couldn’t sit in line at the exit because she didn’t speak English and would bring down the whole plane’

  • An American-born, bilingual Muslim woman wearing a hijab sued Southwest Airlines after she had to move from her seat because ‘she couldn’t speak English’
  • The woman and the flight attendant spoke to each other in English, but they were told she had to move anyway
  • The sister of the woman she was traveling with was not wearing a hijab and was told she could sit in the same seat.
  • “This is textbook religious discrimination and profiling,” said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-DFW

An American-born, bilingual Muslim woman wearing a hijab was forced to move from a seat at the exit of Southwest Airlines after a flight attendant told her she “couldn’t speak English” and would “take down the whole plane in an emergency.” ‘.

The woman — referred to only by her first name, Fatima — and her sister spoke Arabic as they boarded the plane from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas on May 22, after seeing their mother in the hospital.

Then they were approached by the flight attendant who reportedly told Fatima to move.

The sisters switched to English, which they speak fluently, and tried to reason with the flight attendant,” says Fatima’s lawyer Marwa Elbially. But the staff member wouldn’t change his mind and is said to have said to them, “It doesn’t matter.”

To make matters worse, the flight attendant told Fatima to move but let her sister, who was not wearing a hijab, sit in the seat, Elbially said.

“The hardest part was keeping my cool for three hours after being insulted,” Fatima said.

Fatima (left) takes the stage, next to her sister, as she discusses the incident on the Southwest Airlines flight

Fatima (left) takes the stage, next to her sister, as she discusses the incident on the Southwest Airlines flight

Fatima's lawyer Marwa Elbially discusses the situation on the plane and said that the difference between the two sisters was that one was wearing a hijab and the other was not.

Fatima’s lawyer Marwa Elbially discusses the situation on the plane and said that the difference between the two sisters was that one was wearing a hijab and the other was not.

Southwest Airlines has not yet responded to the allegations

Southwest Airlines has not yet responded to the allegations

The Dallas-Fort Worth branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a branch of the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fatima.

“I am doing this on behalf of myself and everyone else in my position,” Fatima said.

In the lawsuit, CAIR-DFW Executive Director Faizan Syed said they want to ensure the flight attendant is disciplined, apologize and seek more training for Southwest employees.

“This young lady Fatima was not targeted because she was doing something wrong, but simply because of her appearance, her faith and her religious tradition,” Syed said.

‘This is a textbook on religious discrimination and profiling. You have two sisters, one who wears the hijab and the other who doesn’t, and they both board at the same time. One is denied the right to sit where she pleases, while the other is encouraged to sit on the basis of nothing but perceived religiosity.’

Southwest Airlines could not be reached for comment.

CAIR-DFW Executive Director Faizan Syed said Fatima, pictured third from the left, was 'targeted not because she did anything wrong, but simply because of her appearance and her faith and her religious tradition'

CAIR-DFW Executive Director Faizan Syed said Fatima, pictured third from the left, was ‘targeted not because she did anything wrong, but simply because of her appearance and her faith and her religious tradition’

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