A 12-year-old Muslim girl was forced to remove her hijab by Air Canada employees after she had already passed security while boarding at San Francisco International Airport.
Fatima Abdelrahman, from Santa Clara, California, is a member of the U.S. junior national squash team and the very first member to wear a hijab while competing.
Abdelrahman was traveling with her team on August 1 to compete in Toronto. As she was about to enter the plane, an Air Canada staff member asked her to remove her hijab at the boarding gate.
“It’s a part of me. It’s something that I wear every day. It’s part of my daily life. I am proud to wear it,” Abdelrahman, who just turned 13, told ABC.
“The Air Canada agent looked at my picture, looked at me, and said ‘These don’t connect. You need to take it off,’ (as) he pointed at (my hijab). I said, ‘No, I can’t.’ He said, ‘No, you need to!’ I said, ‘No, I can’t, religious purposes,'” the teen explained.
Abdelrahman asked the employee if she could bring her to a private screening area, but the woman led her to a tunnel where passengers were boarding and forced her to remove her hijab there, Daily Mail reported.
“‘Just quickly take it off, so you can board,’” the female employee reportedly told her.
“So, I quickly took it off, didn’t really know what to do,” Abdelrahman continued. “All my teammates had passed, my coach had passed. I had no idea I was alone. So, I quickly took it off. She barely glanced (at the passport) and then up at me. And (then said), ‘Ok, hurry up! Hurry up! Go grab your stuff!'”
The teen said she felt she was singled out and pointed out how another person was allowed to board even though that individual was wearing a hat.
“First of all, the hijab doesn’t cover my face. So even though in the passport photo I was not wearing the hijab, you can still see my face, and see that it is the same person,” she said. “I saw someone wearing a hat, but they weren’t asked to remove it. Not trying comparing the scarf and a hat. But still, it does cover your head. So why was I asked to remove it, and not them? So yeah, I did feel discriminated against.”
“There is a history of Muslims… being picked (out), specifically on these issues. And that’s our concern,” said Ammad Rafiqi, the family’s lawyer from the Council on American Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area.
Rafiqi added that Air Canada had violated U.S. and California law by not providing Abdelrahman a private screening area, and said the TSA had already screened her and cleared her to fly.
“This is something Air Canada says is in their procedures, but either they don’t follow it, or it’s not something that’s in the training for their employees, and that’s the concern here,” Rafiqi said.
After the incident, the girl’s sister tweeted at the airline’s official account asking for an explanation.
. @AirCanada pls explain why you pulled aside my 12yr old sister for flight 758 making her take off her hijab AT THE GATE?? AFTER she already passed security??
Thx for ruining her experience as the first U.S. National Team Squash player in Hijab + her first time traveling alone
— Sabreen Abdelrahman (@Sabreen_magdy) August 1, 2019
In its reply, the airline apologized for what happened and had asked for the teen’s flight details.
Hello Sabreen, we are truly sorry to hear about this situation and we certainly understand your concerns. May you please DM us your daughter’s booking reference so we can better follow-up? /Mick
— Air Canada (@AirCanada) August 1, 2019
Featured Image Screenshot via YouTube / CAIR on TV