Muslim Discrimination on American Airlines

Posted on May 2, 2016 by



My final project is going to cover how Islamophobia is impacting the United States and more specifically how Muslims are being discriminated against on airplanes and airports. I’m going to analyze how muslims are portrayed in the media and how that impacts how Muslims are treated on airlines in America. From the many sources I will be looking at, I will try to see how liberal and conservative mindsets, geographic location, and religious views play a factor in these discriminations. Islamophobia is evident in American culture today and geographical location, political, and religious views all play a factor in influencing how we negatively view the Muslim community. The misrepresentation of Muslims in the media is whats causing the increased paranoia amongst American about the Muslim population.

Cause of Fear:  

An important thing to consider is why people would be motivated to discriminate against Muslims. People always fear what they don’t understand. If you were to go up to a typical American today and asked them general questions about Islam such as, “What are the five pillars of Islam”, most people probably wouldn’t be able to answer that. However if you asked them what Jihad was they would probably tell you it had something to do with a holy war or restoring glory to Allah through violence. Therein lies the source of the fear. If Americans constantly associate Islam and its middle eastern followers with violent insurgents such as terrorists, then every Muslim looking person looks like a threat. This issue is further implanted in the back of people’s minds because on the attacks on 9/11. The association of Arabs to terrorists is very similar to the oriental monk model. It is similar in how if an Eastern Asian person dresses like a monk, then he is automatically a monk with no questions asked. This model applies the same for Arab people in the United States only with the “Arab” qualities portrayed in the media such as wearing a hijab, looking middle eastern, etc.

Geographic Location:

I took a look at several stories about incidents where a Muslim passenger was denied service or kicked off a plane due to being or looking Muslim. These news sources came from Los Angeles, Washington state, and Washington D.C., as well as a national news source such as CNN. After reading through the Los Angeles post I can conclude that the writer is very against muslim discrimination and showed no real bias towards anti-muslim rhetoric. The common airline perpetrators that came up throughout the articles I read were Southwest airlines and United Airlines. Originally, I thought that geographical location would play a role in the areas where the most Muslims got asked to leave a flight but it seems that isn’t the case. The geographical location where people get discriminated against isn’t the cause at all. Muslims are being discriminated against all over the country. For example, the places where the people in the articles I read experienced discrimination were Chicago, Los Angeles, and Virginia, none of which are near each other or even in the same part of the country. Instead it seems to be the airlines themselves that have more to do with it. A major complaint against Southwest and United Airlines is that they directly target Muslim people based on how they look and then muster up an excuse to have them removed from the airplane, most commonly for “safety reasons”. An example of this included a muslim woman being denied an unopened can of soda because it could be “used as a weapon”, while a white male next to her was handed an unopened can of beer immediately after she was denied. In these stories about Muslim discrimination, the tone of the coverage makes the airline companies out to be the bad guys in this situation and the Muslims are the victims. This very well may be the case but what is more likely is the flight attendant’s own personal views cause them to be biased against Muslim people and not the Airline companies themselves thus making the flight attendant’s the bad guys and not the airlines. There is also one other way to think about this discrimination and it is the discrimination comes from the fellow passengers and neither from the airline company or the employees. The airline and its employees are put in a tough situation when a passenger on their flight complains about not feeling safe due to a Muslim passenger. They are damned if they do remove the muslim passenger because they will face discrimination allegations and they are damned if they don’t remove the Muslim passenger because then the original passenger may file charges against the airline about not addressing their safety. So it’s safe to say that geographical location doesn’t play a role in Muslim discrimination but people’s own views and ideologies do.

Political views:

With the upcoming election, several candidates have been introduced each with their own political views. Republicans and democrats have had opposing views on just about everything since their inception but how does each political party influence American views about Muslims? Well first we will look at the numbers. In a 2015 Sedat Chair Poll it was concluded that about 67% of Democrats had favorable views about Muslims as Republicans only had 41% of favorable views. That is to be expected since Democrats are usually pretty open to change and are typically more sympathetic towards cultures that aren’t seen as typically “American” such as Muslims. Republicans are the opposite, they are generally more critical of opposing cultures. With that being said, Muslims are more likely to experience discrimination on airlines in places that are heavily republican such as Texas or Alabama. The Republican view on Muslims is further established with Donald Trump running on behalf of the Republican party. Donald Trump has expressed very strong anti-muslim rhetoric which has a lot of influence over the American people, especially those who identify as Republican. With Trump’s views on Muslims spreading, Muslims are more likely to experience discrimination on airlines and everywhere else as a consequence. The American people are misinformed about Islam and thus about Islam’s followers, which in turn leads to ignorance towards the Muslim community. If the American people were adequately informed about Islam and its practices maybe they wouldn’t be so afraid of sitting next to a Muslim on an airplane. They would realize that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are against terrorism and the term “Jihad” actually means inner struggle and not war. So political affiliation actually has some relevance in deciding how tolerant a person is toward Muslims. A Democrat is more likely to have a favorable view of Muslims than a Republican would have.

Religious Views:  

Americans have rejected Islam since its correlation with the attacks on 9/11. Almost 15 years later attitudes towards Islam have more or less stayed the same. According to 2015 Sedat Chair Poll, Americans view on the third largest religion, Islam, in the US is more unfavorable than favorable at 61% to 37% respectively. I decided to dig a little deeper and try to find out how the largest religious group in the United States, the Christians, felt about Muslims. A study by Life way Research, concluded that 60% of Evangelical Christians believed that Islam was fundamentally different than Christianity while only 44% of Americans believed it was different. Pastors were also asked the same question and 83% percent said that Islam is fundamentally different. So it’s safe to say that Christians are inherently biased toward Islam. Although I couldn’t find any information that states what religion Southwest and United Airlines associate with, its clearly not Islam. Since more than 70% of the United States identify as Christians, most of the flight attendants accused of discrimination are more than likely Christians. The Christian community has a strong sense of insiders vs outsiders. As a Christian, if you encounter someone who is also Christian the person is going to have a favorable attitude towards the other Christian because he/she is considered an insider. The opposite is true for Muslims or people from other religions for that matter. Religious affiliation does play a role in how a person views another person from an outside religion.


Discrimination towards the Muslim population traveling on airlines has been an ongoing issue since 9/11. The cause of the discrimination can be chalked up to various reasons based on specific personal beliefs. However, after doing a bit of analysis for myself I began to realize that the cause of discrimination can be linked to political and religious views. If you are a Christian Republican in the United States you are more likely to act unfavorably towards a fellow Muslim American than if you are say a Jewish Democrat. People in America need to start thinking for themselves and stop believing everything the media says about Muslims. The constant demonizing of the Muslim population on top of the majority of political and religious views of the people in the United States creates a hostile environment for Muslims to exist. Discrimination against Muslims on airplanes will continue to occur until the American people put aside their ignorant attitudes and begin to look at Muslims as another human being and not a monster that is out to destroy their lives.



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