WASHINGTON - United Airlines, an American carrier, is facing growing criticism for alleged Islamophobia after a female Muslim passenger said she was a victim of Islamophobia because she was refused an unopened can of Diet Coke over fears it would be used as a “weapon”.

Tahera Ahmad, an Indian-American who is director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, posted the details of the incident on Facebook on Saturday. She wrote that a flight attendant refused to give her an unopened can of Diet Coke since "people may use it as a weapon on the plane."

When Ahmad replied that the flight attendant gave the man next to her an unopened can of beer, the flight attendant allegedly responded that "it's so you don't use it as a weapon," she said in the post. Ahmad said that when she asked other passengers if they witnessed the incident, a nearby passenger said "you know you would use it as a weapon," addressed her as "you Muslim," and abused her." The Facebook post went viral, and a #unitedfortahera hashtag immediately began trending worldwide.  

According to media reports, United responded to the incident by saying that they were "a company that strongly supports diversity and inclusion, and we and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers. We are reaching out directly to Ms. Ahmad to get a better understanding of what occurred during the flight. We are also discussing the matter that Ms. Ahmad describes with Shuttle America, our regional partner that operated the flight. We look forward to speaking with Ms. Ahmad and hope to have the opportunity to welcome her back."

Though Ahmad acknowledged the apology she received, she wrote a further post outlining her disappointment that the airline “dismissed [this] as a mere can of soda issue” instead of dealing with what she felt was discriminating behaviour.

 “I want to make it very clear to the public that my intentions are not to get the flight attendant who behaved very rudely towards me fired. I simply did not expect United Airlines to dismiss the unwarranted and unfortunate rude behaviour, discrimination and hateful words but rather acknowledge their  accountability and role in the painful experience and share corrective measures within their training to prevent this from happening again regardless of their race, religion, gender, sex, or socioeconomic background,” she wrote.