RELIGION

Muslim Mom To Woman Who Harassed Her On A Delta Flight: I Forgive You

02/05/2015 01:10 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2015
Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Muslim mom says she was harassed onboard a Delta Air Lines flight for wearing a hijab, and that Delta staff failed to come to her defense.

Darlene Hider, 32, says she wants an apology from the airline, but she's ready to forgive.

"This made me stronger," Hider told HuffPost. "Our faith teaches us to forgive, and I do."

Hider, a mother of four from Michigan, was traveling from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Detroit on Monday when an unidentified woman reportedly began complaining that the children were being disruptive. Noticing Hider's headscarf, the woman turned toward the mom and allegedly said, "This is America!"

Hider said she immediately thought, "So this is what [Islamophobia] feels like."

"It was really difficult to be belittled and spoken down to because someone saw a piece of cloth on my head," Hider said. "And it was so hurtful for my kids to watch."

Hider started wearing the hijab about two years ago. Many women in her family choose not to wear the headscarf, and Hider says her husband never forced it on her. But when she began wearing it, she said, she felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

"Hijab is more than just covering your head. It's about covering your tongue, your heart, watching what you say," Hider said. "It's about being a beautiful woman on the inside and showing that's what counts. I didn't need anyone to make me happy anymore, because I'd found that connection with God."

Still, she was aware from the beginning that she could face discrimination.

"Every day, I walk out of my door in my hijab thinking, 'Is this the day?' Well, Monday was that day," Hider told HuffPost.

Her brother, Abed Ayoub, is the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, an organization that advocates on behalf of Muslims.

Using the plane's Wi-Fi, Hider's husband informed Ayoub about what was happening. Ayoub then live-tweeted the incident.

Instead of taking action against the offender, a Delta employee allegedly told Hider and her family to move to another section of the plane.

A video posted to YouTube by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee purports to show a Delta employee threatening to kick the family off the plane if it doesn't comply. Hider confirmed to HuffPost that the video depicts the incident.

"I am fixing the problem," the employee states in the video.

During the confrontation, Hider said she thought deeply about the Prophet Muhammad's example and how he would respond with love whenever anyone showed him disrespect, so she tried her best to be patient and do what the Delta employee asked.

"My next step is to make sure Delta knows that all myself and my family wants is an apology," Hider said. "And we want to make sure that this employee and all employees know how to treat minorities and how to treat a woman on an airplane with a child."

In an email, a Delta representative told HuffPost that the company has been in touch with Hider and that Delta "does not condone discrimination of any kind."

Public opinions about Muslim and Arab Americans have grown progressively negative in recent years, Reuters reports. According to a poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute, only 27 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Muslims. The negative feelings are strongest among senior citizens and those who identify as Republican.

Young Muslim Americans are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in public, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey:

More than half (56%) of U.S. Muslims ages 18-29 say they have been treated with suspicion, called offensive names, singled out by law enforcement or physically threatened in the year prior to the survey. By comparison, 35% of Muslim Americans ages 30 and older say at least one of those things has happened to them.

Hider said the reaction from other passengers on the plane was what gave her the most hope.

"The unity I felt on the airplane was just overwhelming. So many people were consoling me. People were very gentle and nice to me and my husband," Hider said. "This is America. That's the American response."

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