A passenger was arrested by airport police in Michigan on Saturday — the anniversary of 9/11 — after attacking a Muslim woman on a flight from Atlanta to Detroit, officials say.
The passenger began “acting belligerently” from the moment she boarded the Spirit Airlines flight, according to a Council on American-Islamic Relations news release.
She verbally harassed crew members and fellow passengers during the flight, but her behavior escalated upon landing at the Detroit Metro Airport, council officials said.
Aicha Toure, a Muslim woman who was wearing a head scarf, spoke up, asking her to stop berating another passenger. She then turned her attention to Toure, calling her a number of things including “Muslim terrorist,” according to CAIR.
The woman stopped mid-tirade, when she noticed passengers had begun recording her, and punched Toure, CAIR officials said.
Members of the flight crew stepped in, and the Wayne County Airport Authority Police Department arrested the passenger on charges of assault and disorderly conduct, news outlets reported.
Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, thanked the crew and police officers for their handling of the situation but says more needs to be done.
“We call for the suspect who allegedly spewed anti-Muslim rhetoric during the assault to be charged to the full extent of the law,” Walid said. “Swift arrests along with strong prosecutions must be instituted to deter future acts of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, many American Muslims have found themselves the victims of Islamophobic harassment and attacks, CAIR staff attorney Amy Doukoure said, and Toure is among the latest in a long line.
“The alleged actions of this individual are reprehensible and she clearly targeted religious and racial minorities for her violent words and actions,” Doukoure said. “Michigan’s Ethnic intimidation law was created to protect people like Ms. Toure … (and) it is imperative that Wayne County Prosecutor’s office take this hate crime seriously and ensure that Muslims are safe from hate and violence in all aspects of their life.”
In a statement to McClatchy News, Spirit Airlines said the woman has been banned from any future flights with the company.
”We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. A passenger on one of our flights arriving in Detroit chose to use appalling language toward one of our Guests,” the statement said. “That kind of behavior has no place on our planes—or anywhere else—and she is no longer welcome on any of our flights. We thank our crew for taking control of the situation until law enforcement arrived, and we thank the Wayne County Airport Police for removing her.”