DETROIT — A Muslim civil rights organization is urging Wayne County authorities to bring hate crime charges against a woman who the group says verbally berated an African American Muslim woman on a Sept. 11 flight from Atlanta to Detroit, then hit her.
"We call for the suspect who allegedly spewed anti-Muslim rhetoric during the assault to be charged to the full extent of the law," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "Swift arrests along with strong prosecutions must be instituted to deter future acts of anti-Muslim hate crimes."
The incident, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is one of many that Muslim Americans — especially in Detroit — have reported against them in the past two decades.
According to CAIR's account of what occurred aboard the plane, Aicha Toure was traveling on Spirit Airlines flight 3807 when a white woman, whom she did not know, "initiated altercations with minority crew members on the flight."
When the flight landed, the woman also began "harassing and intimidating an older woman who looked to be of South Asian descent."
Toure asked the woman to stop cursing at the other woman.
The white woman reportedly then became violent and called Toure a "Muslim terrorist," but when the white woman realized Toure and others were recording her comments, she hit Toure with her fist and was later arrested by authorities.
The Wayne County Airport Authority Police Department confirmed the arrest, saying that "it appears there was a misunderstanding between two women. A third woman intervened in an effort to help. The third woman was assaulted."
Authorities took the suspect into custody and cited her for assault and disorderly conduct.
Spirit responded by saying the airline seeks to make its guests "feel safe, welcome and respected," and does not "tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind." It confirmed a passenger "chose to use appalling language" which "and she is no longer welcome on any of our flights."
In 2015, CAIR asked Spirit Airlines to apologize to four passengers who were removed from a flight out of the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to The Baltimore Sun. In that incident, the airline denied that the passengers' ethnicity or religion played a role.
A woman and three men boarded a flight to Chicago, but were escorted off the plane and questioned after a witness reported "suspicious activity" to the flight crew, Maryland Transportation Authority police said, the Baltimore newspaper reported.
"The alleged actions of this individual are reprehensible and she clearly targeted religious and racial minorities for her violent words and actions," Amy Doukoure, a CAIR-MI attorney, said about the Detroit incident. "Michigan’s Ethnic intimidation law was created to protect people like Ms. Toure from being assaulted after being called a Muslim terrorist while traveling on the 20th anniversary of 9/11."