The incident was reportedly set off by an argument between the pair at the airport's security line before boarding.
A Muslim activist and former congressional candidate was removed from an American Airlines flight departing Newark Airport Saturday after a white male passenger said he didn't "feel comfortable" with her being on the plane. Amani al-Khatahtbeh, founder of the Muslim Girl website and the first Muslim woman to run for Congress in New Jersey, documented the entire ordeal in a series of tweets and a Facebook Live recorded from the plane, which has since gone viral. The incident onboard the plane — bound for Charlotte, North Carolina — was set off by an argument between the pair at the airport's security line before getting on the flight.
"I had the craziest experience in TSA this morning," Amani explained in the first of a series of tweets. "An entitled white man behind me insisted on cutting me in line because I was 'still taking my shoes off.' When I said he could wait like everyone else, he started going off about how he's 'pre-check' and 'first class.'" She said in a follow-up tweet that the man "then proceeded to not only shove his things before [hers]," but also ran through the machine while "TSA did NOTHING!"
Y’all know if I, a VEILED MUSLIM WOMAN, had the audacity to throw a temper tantrum and run through TSA security, I would have gotten BODIED. I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc.— AMANI (@AMANI2020) November 14, 2020
We need to resurrect the @muslimgirl #ShitTSASays column. 3/3
"Not only did they not do anything, but a TSA officer also had the audacity to tell ME to 'cut it out.' Y'all know if I, a VEILED MUSLIM WOMAN, had the audacity to throw a temper tantrum and run through TSA security, I would have gotten BODIED. I would have been detained, missed my flight, possibly gotten charged, etc.," she pointed out. A few minutes later, Amani revealed in another tweet that the unidentified man had made a complaint about her to the staff who then attempted to get her off the flight. "This is the American Air manager coming onboard to tell me that they're removing me from my flight because 'there is a passenger onboard who doesn't feel comfortable' with me," she wrote, tweeting a video of the manager telling her the same.
This is the @AmericanAir manager coming onboard to tell me that they're removing me from my flight because "there is a passenger onboard who doesn't feel comfortable" with me. pic.twitter.com/pwBS5NkvAn— AMANI (@AMANI2020) November 15, 2020
Refusing to leave the plane, Amani asked: "I do not feel comfortable with that passenger being here. I would like that passenger removed. Or is it because he’s first-class that he’s not being removed?" Things reached a standstill when she stood her ground and after about 7 minutes, the airlines ended up deboarding every passenger from the flight. "A man in first-class complained about me after he harassed me in TSA, and said that I, the Muslim woman, made him feel uncomfortable," Amani said in her Facebook Live. "So American Airlines, rather than de-boarding that one singular man, attempted to de-board this entire flight to save one person in first class. They first tried to remove the Muslim woman – rather than take both of us out they just wanted to take me out, take his word for it. And when I refused they de-boarded the entire plane."
According to the New Jersey Herald, Amani was then taken into custody by the Port Authority and released shortly after. A spokeswoman said that Port Authority's independent inspector general has started an investigation into the incident. "Our understanding is that Ms. Al-Khatahtbeh believed the other passenger, who is enrolled in PreCheck, was getting favorable treatment because he was allowed to proceed through security while she was removing her shoes," said Andrew Trull, an American Airlines spokesperson. He added that the verbal altercation between the two continued through the terminal and onto the plane where Amani confronted the other passenger. "We take this issue seriously and our team is working as fast as possible to understand what occurred," said Trull.
Had to get off my flight because a man asked a Muslim woman to get off the plane. @AmericanAir employees followed his request and gave the woman no explanation pic.twitter.com/ASZYA9Yx7d— Jake (@yesjaketapia) November 14, 2020