Man Pleads Guilty To Yanking Muslim Woman’s Hijab Off During A Flight

May 16, 2016  |  

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

A North Carolina man named Gill Payne pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge after admitting that he yanked off a Muslim woman’s hijab without her permission during a Southwest Airlines flight.

The incident happened December 11 on a flight from Albuquerque to Chicago. USA Today reports that Payne was seated several rows behind the woman who was only identified as K.A. When he saw her, he walked towards her seat and told her to take off her hijab. He then grabbed the back of it and pulled it off, leaving K.A.’s head exposed. While committing the audacious act, Payne told K.A., “Take it off—this is America!”

Last Friday, the government recommended that Payne be sentenced to two months of home probation. However, there’s a possibility that he could be sentenced to one year in prison if a judge decides to sentence him to such. Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice shared her feelings about the case with The Huffington Post. She said, “No matter one’s faith, all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence. Using or threatening force against individuals because of their religion is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation. The Civil Rights Division will continue to be vigilant in protecting the religious liberties guaranteed to all Americans.”

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez of the District of New Mexico believes Payne’s prosecution will set the tone for those who don’t believe such behavior is a form of a hate crime. He told USA Today that Payne’s sentence will send a “clear message to anyone who contemplates the use of threats or intimidation to interfere with the right of individuals, including members of our Muslim community, to express their faith without fear.”

Muslim women wear hijabs as a symbol of modesty, privacy or religious pride. It offers Muslim women a way to maintain their modesty from the male gaze in the public sphere.  As The Huffington Post pointed out, this unfortunate incident occurred three days after Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump stated that all Muslims should be banned from emigrating to the United States. So it should be no surprise that some people, like Payne, think they can get away with such forms of Islamaphobia.

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