Muslim family kicked off flight demands apology from United Airlines

A Muslim family of five from Libertyville wants an apology from United Airlines after the family was removed last month from a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The removal came after the parents requested an additional strap for their youngest daughter’s booster seat, according to Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Rehab said the family was ordered to exit the plane for security reasons. When the mother and father repeatedly asked the flight crew why they were being removed, they were told to exit “peacefully,” return to the gate and await further instructions, Rehab said.

United Airlines said in a statement that the family was asked to leave a SkyWest flight, operating as United Express from Chicago, “because of concerns about their child’s safety seat, which did not comply with federal safety regulations.”

But according to Rehab, when the parents tried to check the seat inside the airport, a United attendant said the computer system was down and instructed them to bring the seat onboard.

As the family settled into seats near the back of the plane, the parents made sure their son and older daughter were buckled in and attempted to secure their younger daughter in her booster seat, Rehab said.

According to Rehab, when the father asked a flight attendant if there was an extra strap for the booster seat, as advertised on the airline’s website, the flight attendant said she didn’t know what he was talking about and walked away.

Moments later another attendant came by and told the parents they couldn’t have the booster seat. They removed the seat and eventually the pilot asked the family to leave the plane. Before disembarking, the mother, who wears an Islamic headscarf, asked the pilot if the family’s removal was a “discriminatory decision.” The parents then left the flight with their children so as to not further frighten their children or inconvenience the other passengers, Rehab said. He said they felt singled out and humiliated.

The mother posted a video of the interaction with the plane’s crew on Facebook, where it has been viewed over 2 million times and shared more than 38,000 times.

“Shame on you #unitedAirlines for profiling my family and me for no reason other than how we look and kicking us off the plane for ‘safety flight issues’ on our flight to DC for the kids spring break,” she posted. “My three kids are too young to have experienced this.”

Rehab said other passengers around the family joined the disruption and said, “They did nothing wrong.”

The couple and their children completed their journey on a later flight and booked their return to Chicago on a different airline. Rehab said the family has asked for a formal apology, corrective action for the employees involved and reimbursement for that return flight and accommodations they had to book to adjust their travel plans.

This is not the first time United has been accused of mistreating Muslim customers. Last May, Northwestern University chaplain Tahera Ahmad was flying from Chicago to Washington, D.C., on a United flight operated by Shuttle America when a flight attendant refused to bring her an unopened can of soda. When Ahmad pointed out that another passenger had received one, the flight attendant abruptly opened the soda and told Ahmad it was so she would not use it as a weapon.

Adopting the hashtag #UnitedforTahera, thousands tweeted messages of support and calls for a boycott after Ahmad detailed the confrontation on Facebook. The controversy ended nearly a week later with an apology from United and the company’s promise that the attendant would not work on United express flights until she had undergone more training.

The airline also said employees would continue to receive annual cultural awareness training and that it would reach out to its express partners, including SkyWest, to make sure their staff also receives regular sensitivity training.

Fewest Numbers of Americans Concerned about Terrorism since 9/11

Findings from the 2012 Chicago Council Survey of American Public Opinion

September 10, 2012 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fewer Americans are concerned about international terrorism as a “critical” threat to the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001, according to the 2012 Chicago Council Survey released today. While a majority is still worried, the intensity of concern about terrorism has steadily declined. At the same time, most Americans do not credit the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan with reducing the threat.

The survey report, Foreign Policy in the New Millennium, from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, will be discussed by a panel of experts hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and NPR as part of The National Conversation series. For more information, download the reportwatch a live webcast of the event starting at 12:30 p.m. EST, and follow @ChicagoCouncil and @TheWilsonCenter for live updates.

While Americans consider the Middle East as the greatest source of future threats, they are gradually shifting their foreign policy focus towards Asia and a rising China, viewed as important more for their economic dynamism than as a potential threat. For the first time since the Council first asked the question in 1994, a majority of Americans (52%) see Asia as more important to the United States than Europe (47%).

The 2012 Chicago Council Survey finds that the views of “Millennials”—those between the ages of 18 and 29—are shifting in a more pronounced way than those of older Americans. They see the world as less threatening, and show less concern than other age groups about international terrorism (see figure), Islamic fundamentalism, and the development of China as a world power. Millennials also favor a less activist approach to foreign policy, with a slight majority (52%) saying the United States should “stay out” of world affairs, compared to just 35 percent among older age groups.

When looking at partisan differences, the 2012 Chicago Council Survey finds that political polarization on many aspects of U.S. foreign policy is overstated. Opinions in “red” and “blue” districts overall are similar. While the parties often differ in degree, there is generally consensus among the majorities. Independents, however, distance themselves from both Republicans and Democrats. They are less likely than both to support an active U.S. role in global affairs and less likely to view U.S. leadership as “very” desirable.

Other key findings of the 2012 Chicago Council Survey include:

•         Just over half (54%) support an attack by U.S. ground troops against terrorist training camps and facilities, down from 82 percent in 2002.

•         Majorities oppose the UN authorizing a strike on Iran (51% opposed), oppose a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran (70% opposed), and do not want to get involved in a potential Iran-Israel war (59% opposed).

•         To deal with the crisis in Syria, majorities of Americans support diplomatic and economic sanctions (63%) as well as a no-fly zone in Syria (58%).

More than 1,800 Americans were surveyed for the 2012 Chicago Council Survey.  The 2012 Chicago Council Survey was made possible by generous support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the United States-Japan Foundation.

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is a prominent, independent and nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.  The Chicago Council has been conducting nationwide public opinion surveys on American views on foreign policy since 1974.  These surveys provide insights into the current and long-term foreign policy attitudes of the American public on a wide range of global topics.

Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to announce the release of the findings of its independent Task Force on the civic and political integration of Muslim Americans. “Strengthening America” calls for Muslims and non-Muslims to work together to create full and equal opportunities for Muslim Americans to participate in American civic and political life.

The Task Force, led by Farooq Kathwari, chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., and Lynn Martin, former secretary of labor and congresswoman, brought together a group of thirty two distinguished Muslim and non-Muslim leaders to examine the Muslim American experience and provide a roadmap for accelerating Muslim American engagement.

The Task Force found that Muslim Americans are a well-educated, diverse group and concluded that their talents are needed to help address critical domestic and foreign policy challenges related to homeland security and U.S. relations with Muslim countries and peoples. There are opportunities for Muslim Americans to expand their contributions to national security and continue to take the lead in encouraging greater civic participation, leadership development, and institution building within their community. Non-Muslim groups and government leaders can work to better recognize Muslim American contributions to national security, improve collaborations with Muslim American institutions, and provide greater opportunities for young Muslim Americans.

For more information about the Task Force and its findings, including access to a downloadable version of the full report, please visit the Muslims Task Force page of the Chicago Council Web site.