Last updated: 02:48 PM ET, Mon June 01 2015

#UnitedforTahera Social Media Boycott Targets United Airlines

Airlines & Airports | United Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | June 01, 2015

#UnitedforTahera Social Media Boycott Targets United Airlines

A bad week for United Airlines is getting far worse.

The Chicago-based carrier is facing a brewing social media storm calling for a boycott of the airline in the wake of an alleged act of discrimination against a Muslim chaplain.

This comes less than a week after the airline’s regional carrier, SkyWest, removed a pregnant woman from a flight before it even took off because of her crying baby.

As TravelPulse wrote on Sunday, Tahera Ahmad, 31, a Muslim chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, was flying from Chicago to Washington for a conference encouraging dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth. She was wearing the traditional headscarf, or hijab.

For sanitary reasons, she requested an unopened can of soda. The flight attendant said she could not give her one, but then gave an unopened can of beer to another passenger. Ahmad questioned the flight attendant after seeing this.

"We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people because they may use it as a weapon on the plane," she said the flight attendant told her.

When Ahmad asserted that she was being subject to discrimination, the attendant abruptly opened the beer can.

"It's so you don't use it as a weapon," was the reply, Ahmad said.

In shock, Ahmad queried other flyers if they had seen what happened.

A man across the aisle yelled, "You Muslim, you need to shut the f--- up," she said.

"What?" she asked.

The man leaned over, looked her in the eyes and said: "Yes, you know you would use it as a weapon. So shut the f--- up," according to Ahmad.

"I felt the hate in his voice and his raging eyes," she wrote on Facebook while still in the air. "I can't help but cry ... because I thought people would defend me and say something. Some people just shook their heads in dismay."

Now, using the hashtag #unitedfortahera, many are calling on a boycott of United.

And …

United Airlines told CNN in a statement that the incident was “a misunderstanding” and that it hoped to reach out to Ahmad.

But as the boycott calls gain traction, so too is the debate ratcheted up.

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