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Muslim woman denied Coke can aboard flight over ‘weapon fears’

Tahera Ahmad was told "It's so you don't use it as a weapon"

Published: Updated:

A Muslim traveler aboard a United Airlines flight was denied an unopened can of diet coke and was told "it's so you don't use it as a weapon," just after handing an unopened can to another passenger.

Tahera Ahmad, 31, director of interfaith engagement and associate chaplain at Northwestern University was travelling Friday from Chicago to Washington when the incident occurred aboard the flight, according to her Facebook post.

I am sitting on a United airlines flight in the air 30,000ft above and I am in tears of humiliation from discrimination....

Posted by Tahera Ahmad on Friday, May 29, 2015

Ahmad, who wears an Islamic headscarf or hijab was heading to Washington for a conference on promoting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth.

Ahmad had requested an unopened can of diet coke as a hygienic precaution to which the flight attendant reported responded to by saying “we are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane.”

When Ahmad told the flight attendant she was being discriminated against, the attendant opened the beer can to hand to Ahmad’s fellow passenger.

“It’s so you don’t use it as a weapon,” Ahmad claims she was told.

The shocked and bewildered Ahmad asked the other travelers if they had witnessed what unfolded.

A passenger across the aisle turned to her and shouted an obscene anti-Muslim comment.

He then said, “yes, you know you would use it as a weapon.”

Ahmad wrote on Facebook while still in flight that “I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes,”

She added that, “I can’t help but cry…because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their head sin dismay.”

Support poured in for Ahmad on Facebook after posting about her ordeal with the twitter hashtag #unitedfortahera. Some social media users pledge to boycott United Airlines.

In a statement carried by CNN, United spokesman Charles Hobart said the airline "strongly supports diversity and inclusion."

"We and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers," the statement 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, who has Premier frequent-flier status with United, said Saturday that she had not heard from the airline. But later, the flight attendant as well as the pilot later apologized, she said.

"She said she's working on her rude behavior and that the man (sitting across the aisle) should not have said anything," Ahmad said according to CNN.

"I'm not doing this to go after United Airlines. This is about bigotry and racism and our country is going through a very difficult time right now. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others worked so hard ..." Ahmad added.

"They strove so hard so that Americans would not mistreat each other on the basis of the color of their skin or religious or ethnic background but I guess we're still on that journey."