A Muslim girl was asked to remove her hijab at an airport. Now a Muslim advocacy group is taking action.
Many Muslim women wear a headscarf known as hijab in public as part of their religion. Unfortunately, they're more likely to face religious discrimination because if it. 69% of women who wore hijab reported at least one incident of discrimination, compared to 29% of women who didn't. Girls who wear hijab in school will be bullied because of it, with 29% reporting they experienced "offensive touching or pulling" of the item.
Women are supposed to be allowed to keep on their hijab while going through airport security, but this doesn't always happen. Fatima Abdelrahman was asked to remove her hijab while traveling to Canada for an international squash tournament in Toronto. This was the first time Fatima, who was 12-years-old at the time, flew without her family.
When Abdelrahman was waiting for her flight, a male Air Canada agent told her to remove the hijab because she wasn't wearing one in her passport photo. Abdelrahman asked why she had to take off her hijab when she had already cleared security. "He was just like, 'You have to take it off.' He didn't really address the question," Abdelrahman's sister told the Huffington Post. "Obviously she wasn't going to take it off in front of him so they … took her to a corner. It wasn't right in public but it also wasn't in a closed room."
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Abdelrahman complied. She was scared about missing her flight and didn't want to delay her team. When her hijab was off, the official glanced at Abdelrahman's hair without comparing it to the passport photo. Abdelrahman was not asked to remove her hijab on her return trip to California.
Abdelrahman says she's used to airport screening taking longer than normal because of her hijab, she had never experienced anything like this before. "Taking it off isn't just like taking off a sock or taking off whatever — it's almost like taking off a limb," Abdelrahman told KPIX. "It's a big deal to me. It's part of my Muslim identity and who I am as a person. So when someone tells me to casually take it off and hurry up, it's degrading."
Air Canada corresponded with the family via email, saying they "must comply with Canadian laws and regulations which require us to compare a passenger's entire face with the photograph shown on the travel document used prior to boarding the aircraft."
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Now, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) is taking action. The organization filed a complaint, asking for the airline to make policy changes in order to prevent employees from discriminating or harassing people. They also want Air Canada's employees to go through cultural competency training, as well as a formal apology and monetary damages for Abdelrahman.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority told the Huffington Post it doesn't "require airlines to screen passengers." Nor do they require passengers to take off head coverings during screening processes.
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