Muslim American women kicked off American Airlines flight

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MIAMI — A Muslim American woman says she and her friend were ordered off an American Airlines plane after one of them complained about the lack of service on a delayed flight.

Voice of America journalist Niala Khalil posted on her Facebook page earlier this week that she and the woman with whom she was traveling were ordered off the plane in Miami following a bizarre incident involving multiple flight attendants. Khalil added they were met by armed air marshals and police officers once off the plane.

Khalil said she and the other woman, whom she does not identify, were stuck on the tarmac for five hours when a “white male passenger” struck up a conversation with her friend about the lack of food and water.

“Suddenly, a male flight attendant walking by singled out my friend and stated, ‘If you have a problem, you can get off the plane.'” Khalil wrote. “My friend replied, ‘I have no problem–I am simply stating facts. We were given one glass of water in 5 hours.’ The attendant responded by once again threatening my friend, ‘Well, I can have you removed for instigating other passengers.'”

The flight attendant was not wearing a name badge and did not identify himself, according to Khalil. She said a female flight attendant asked her who the male attendant was. Khalil’s friend then took a picture of the man in hopes another crew member could identify him. But a third flight attendant told them that taking the picture was a “federal offense,” Khalil said.

“Yup, the only two apparent Muslim girls on the plane got kicked off,” Kahlil wrote. “Not sure if it was my friend’s statement “evil-eye” bracelet, the fact that I was watching a Pakistani drama on my iPhone, or our obvious Muslim last names that made him uncomfortable, but here’s the kicker, we both work for the United States Federal government.”

About 10 minutes later Khalil and her companion were ordered off the plane because the male flight attendant felt “threatened.”

“Waiting for us at the ramp were several armed Air Marshalls [sic] and Miami-Dade police officers,” Kahlil wrote. “When asked why we were being removed, we were informed that it was because ‘Rog’ felt threatened by us. However, the white male passenger my friend was speaking to was ironically not removed from the plane with us.”

A spokeswoman for American Airlines told the New York Times the women were removed for “noncompliance.” She also denied that religion factored into the airline’s decision.

“It got a little heated,” said spokeswoman Aran Coello. “Passengers were getting restless, and they started taking it out on the flight attendants.”

Added Coello, “Religion never, ever came up getting them off the plane.”

Khalil wrote that the police officers later took a lighthearted picture with the two women. A photo posted to Facebook shows two men in uniform outside Khalil and another woman. Only Khalil’s face is visible.

Khalil’s account has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook. It also sparked a social media hashtag: #FlyingWhileMuslim.