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.

Is the Schilderswijk [district in the city of the Hague] not a caliphate?

Dutch newspaper Trouw has fired one of its employees for using non-existing sources when writing articles. The name of this journalist has yet to be confirmed, but other media write it’s Perdiep Ramesar.

One of his articles that caused a lot of commotion dates from May 18 2013: ‘If your neighbourhood changes into a caliphate.’ He wrote about a part of the Schilderswijk with a so-called enclave of orthodox Muslims, where smoking, alcohol and short skirts were said to be prohibited.

The article caused a lot of commotion and some politicians decided themselves to take a look in this neighbourhood. Geert Wilders, from the rightwing party Party for the Freedom (PVV) said he didn’t feel like he was in the Netherlands, while walking there.

There were however also some doubts about the article among Muslims themselves. The article played a great role in the (already) negative image of the neighbourhood, and also its stigmatization, as complained by Adri Duivesteijn, former councillor in the Schilderswijk.

Minister of Social Affairs and Safety Asscher also visited the neighbourhood and said he didnt’t recognize himself in what the article wrote.

Support centre for families of jihadis

The National Coordinator counter-Terrorism and Security (NCTV) has plans to establish an independent support centre for families of jihadis and potential jihadis. According to Karima Sahla, who work for ‘Sabr’, an organization in city of The Hague that supports parents of (potential) jihadis, this is needed. Parents are extremely worried about their children and afraid for the phone-call that will tell them there child has become a martyr. It is important that the employees in this centre get trained in how to deal with this specific group, in order to assure quality and an ability to emphasize with the families.

Spanish Islamic Community asks employers to make it easier for their Muslim workers during Ramadan

June 30, 2014

More than 1.7 million Muslims living in Spain have started Sunday, the Ramadan. In this context, the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE) calls on employers to provide, where possible, its practitioners workers to fulfill this task.  “We appeal to the generosity, good practice and good expertise of public and private employers and managers, to the extent of its powers to facilitate the achievement of the daily fast during this month,” says the president of the UCIDE, Riay Tatary. The organization points out that the Spanish law recognizes the right of Muslims to seek the conclusion of the work day one hour before sunset during Ramadan, which is then recovered hours by agreement of the parties.

Ramadan and Work

In a recent interview with Fatima Achouri, author of “The Muslim Employee in France,” Achouri examines how observant French Muslims celebrate Ramadan while continuing to work. Achouri discusses Ramadan’s importance as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and as an obligation for all believers who are physically capable of observing the holiday. Ramadan “highlights the concept of patience and endurance against life’s struggles,” says Achouri. She describes it as an “inner experience,” which explains why many Muslims prefer to not speak about their fasting throughout the month.

When discussing Ramadan’s position in the workplace, Achouri says that “the right to work dictates that it is completely possible to practice one’s religion, it is a fundamental right…for that matter there is a limitation to this freedom that can be put into effect.” For example, during Ramadan a worker cannot “rely on fasting to justify an error [at work].” Furthermore, if the employee feels that his own health and the safety of others is in danger he is allowed to break the fast and make up the days at a later time.

This year Ramadan begins at the end of June and spans much of July– a time when many Frenchmen are on vacation. When asked if the timing would cause observers to use their vacation time during Ramadan, Achouri answered that most prefer to work. Many employees will, however, take the day off for Eid to celebrate the end of Ramadan. While workers may ask for time off it is not guaranteed–especially in workplaces with a large number of Muslim employees.

Businesses are responsible for their workers’ wellbeing and their health and security. This year’s fasting period is particularly long and can last for eighteen hours. The situations for Muslim employees in France can vary depending on the type of establishment. Some businesses are more likely than others to accommodate those who fast. They may allow observant employees to take breaks during the day, or give them tasks that require less physical exertion. Such policies are often in the organization’s own interest, as they promote workers’ health and efficiency and encourage “harmony” in the workplace. Achouri encourages Muslim employees, especially those whose jobs entail physical labor, to speak with their managers in order to find solutions that work for everyone.