American Muslim woman files religious discrimination suit against Southwest Airlines after flight attendant ‘told her she couldn’t sit in exit row because she couldn’t speak English and would bring the whole plane down’
- 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 in English but she was still told to move
- The woman’s sister, who she was traveling with, wasn’t wearing a hijab and was told she could sit in the same seat
- ‘This is textbook religious discrimination and profiling,’ CAIR-DFW Executive Director Faizan Syed said
An American-born, bilingual Muslim woman wearing a hijab was forced to move from a Southwest Airlines exit row seat after a flight attendant told her she ‘couldn’t speak English’ and ‘would bring the whole plane down in an emergency.’
The woman – referred to only by her first name Fatima – and her sister spoke Arabic when they boarded the plane from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas on May 22, after seeing their mom in hospital.
That’s when 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 steward,’ Fatima’s lawyer Marwa Elbially said. But the staff member would not change her mind and allegedly told them, ‘It doesn’t matter.’
To make the issue worse, the flight attendant said Fatima had to move but allowed her sister, who wasn’t wearing a hijab, to sit in the seat, Elbially said.
‘The hardest part was keeping my composure for three hours after being insulted,’ Fatima said.
Fatima (left) takes the podium, 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 the difference between the two sister was one wore a hijab and one didn’t
Southwest Airlines have not yet commented on the allegations
The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fatima.
‘I’m 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’re looking to make sure the flight attendant is disciplined, an apology and for more training for Southwest employees.
‘This young lady Fatima was targeted not because she did anything wrong, but simply because of the same she looks and her faith and her religious tradition,’ Syed said.
‘This is textbook religious discrimination and profiling. You have two sisters, one who wears the hijab and the other who does not, and both board at the same time. One is denied the right to sit where she wants, while the other is encouraged to take a seat based on nothing else then perceived religiosity.’
Southwest Airlines couldn’t 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 the same she looks and her faith and her religious tradition’