There are still many questions surrounding the ejection and arrest of a Muslim woman onboard an American Airlines flight, but one fact has emerged: she was harassing the “white man” (as she called him) in first class. At the very least, that helps to explain why she was removed.
Why Was A Muslim Woman Ejected From American Airlines Flight?
First, a bit of background. 28-year-old Amani al-Khatahtbeh was removed from an American Airlines flight on Saturday, November 14, 2020. She streamed much of the encounter on her Facebook page (caution: NSFW due to coarse language), claiming that a white passenger in first class had complained about her, prompting American Airlines to unquestionably remove her.
Apparently, the trouble began when al-Khatahtbeh was proceeding through security. She took offense to a “white man” cutting in front of her while she took time removing her shoes. When she complained to TSA officers, they sided with the man who had “cut” her.
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” 1/3
— AMANI (@AMANI2020) November 14, 2020
As an aside, cutting in line is common at security checkpoints when a traveler is taking extended time to empty their pockets or remove their shoes. Here, at Newark Airport, the TSA PreCheck and regular security lines had been merged. It appears al-Khatahtbeh did not comprehend this nor understand that PreCheck passengers do not have to remove their shoes.
An argument ensued enroute to the gate and it turns out they were on the same flight to Charlotte, AA2029.
An Onboard Confrontation
Andrew Tull, a spokesperson for American Airlines, provided more insight on what happened after they boarded the flight:
“[al-Khatahtbeh] confronted the passenger and began filming him before taking her seat.”
We see can listen to her profanity-laced tirades and fairly deduce that she confronted the passenger, began filming him, and created a scene onboard.
This seems to explain why she was thrown off. Frankly, I would also object to another passenger coming up to me, filming me, and berating me over a security checkpoint incident she failed to understand. Her filming of another passenger against his consent also ran afoul of AA’s onboard photography policy, which states:
Unauthorized photography or video recording of airline personnel, other customers, aircraft equipment or procedures is prohibited.
She refused to exit the aircraft so the entire aircraft was emptied before she was removed. It still is not clear why she was arrested.
— Jake (@yesjaketapia) November 14, 2020
She later blamed her refusal to get off the aircraft because the man “who made me feel uncomfortable” was also not removed.
“I refused to get off because they’re not taking the man that made me feel uncomfortable and complained about me off the plane.”
Cautious Reaction from CAIR
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has taken a fairly cautious approach to the issue thus far, while still demanding an investigation:
“Although we do not yet know all of the facts about this incident, we do know that American Airlines has a history of mistreating Muslim travelers. The airline must immediately explain why it singled out Amani by contacting the police and ejecting her from a flight based on the word of a man who had allegedly harassed her…
“Any investigation must look into the conduct of the unidentified man who allegedly sparked this disturbing incident.”
There are still many unanswered questions, including concerns about the conduct of the so-called “white man.” But even his poor behavior would not excuse her poor behavior onboard.
Islamophobia is real and I’ve written about unfair incidents concerning Muslims and Muslim-Americans many times over the years. CAIR, it seems to me, would be wise to focus on real issues of prejudice and not the profanity-laced rantings of a self-serving person with a history of expressing questionable anti-Semitic sentiment (implying the Israeli government still harvests Palestinian organs) or imbecilic conspiracy theories that 9/11 was an “inside job.”
image: Amani 2020