Air Canada is facing extreme backlash after an employee allegedly asked a young Muslim girl to remove her hijab before boarding one of their flights.
Fatima Abdelrahman was heading to a squash competition and it was her first time flying alone without her family. She had gone through airport security and had her passport checked when an Air Canada employee (who remains unnamed), demanded that Abdelrahman remove her headscarf.
“He asked me to take the scarf off…as in the passport photo, I wasn’t wearing my scarf. I told him ‘no’ repeatedly, and he told me ‘you have to’,” says Abdelrahman.
She went on to say: “Another person came out, I think it was his manager, and he brought a woman. They took me to a corner, and said, ‘I feel like this is an open space, what about a room?”
Abdelrahman ended up removing her hijab because she feared she would miss her flight. When the search was over, she was unable to find her teammates or coach.
“I was definitely really mad. There were people in front of me wearing sunglasses, hats — they didn’t tell them to take it off,” she told City News.
The girl’s older sister, Sabreen Abdelrahman was so angry at the incident that she tweeted the airline to call them out.
“Air Canada [please] explain why you pulled aside my 12 year old sister for flight 758 making her take off her hijab AT THE GATE?? AFTER she already passed security?? [Thanks] for ruining her experience as the first U.S. National Team Squash player in HIjab and her first time traveling alone,” she tweeted.
Sabreen’s tweet has since gone viral, with over 5,000 likes and almost 2,000 retweets.
A representative for Air Canada responded to Sabreen’s tweet which caused more heat to the airline when the rep misunderstood Sabreen’s relationship with her sister.
“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 references so we can better follow-up?”, said the tweet.
Commenters were quick to respond to the reps tweet saying things like:
“You must not understand Sabreen’s concerns all that well; you didn’t even take the time to read her tweet properly. It was her SISTER who was asked to remove the hijab, not her daughter. Sabreen, I am so sorry your sister was violated like that.”
Another commenter tweeted:
“We are sorry we did something horrible, but only because you publicly blasted us on Twitter. Didn’t take time to read the details though.”
According to City News, reps for Air Canada have informed Sabreen that “anyone who is wearing religious or cultural clothing is entitled to have a secure place, a private place, for a check, if need be.”
Air Canada reps have not commented on the story.