September 20, 2019

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) filed a complaint with Air Canada today, on behalf of a 12-year old Bay Area native, Fatima Abdelrahman, who was forced to remove her hijab in public by Air Canada employees. 

Read: Air Canada Forces 12-Year Old Squash Player to Take Hijab Off at Gate (HuffPost)

According to the complaint, Fatima stood in line waiting to begin boarding her flight with her fellow U.S. National Squash team members, en route to an international tournament, when an Air Canada employee approached Fatima and demanded that she remove her hijab. She was told it was part of the airlines’ pre-boarding identification procedures. Fatima explained to the employee that she wears a hijab as part of her religious beliefs and that she chooses to cover herself. She requested a private screening area but Air Canada employees refused this request and escorted Fatima to a tunnel nearby where she had to remove her hijab publicly.

It was only after Fatima’s older sister, Sabreen, complained about this incident on Twitter that there was any response by Air Canada, but their reply did not acknowledge the impact on Fatima nor that the actions undertaken were arbitrary and discriminatory in nature.

Read: Complaint Letter to Air Canada

“CAIR-SFBA, along with our client, are committed to ensuring that in the future individuals hoping to travel with Air Canada or other airlines are not subject to differential treatment based on their religious beliefs and how they choose to observe their faith,” said CAIR-SFBA’s Civil Rights & Legal Services Coordinator Ammad Rafiqi. “We hope Air Canada will show responsibility by coming to the table in good-faith to ensure that Fatima is made whole for having her right to privacy violated and the ensuing distress she felt during the trip.”