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Who is Anila Daulatzai? Students Urge Boycott of Southwest Demanding Justice For Muslim Professor

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A video of Professor Anila Daulatzai being forcefully removed from her flight by law enforcement personnel, who were called in by Southwest Airlines employees, recently went viral. Professor Daulatzai, who is a Pakistani American Muslim, is pregnant and was hospitalized after her traumatic experience. She said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she was mistreated after she told the crew on a Sept. 26 flight to Los Angeles that she was allergic to dogs in the cabin.

She said the crew initially agreed she could sit far away from the dogs, but later told her they were concerned about her being on the plane. Southwest Airlines said Daulatzai told flight attendants she had a life-threatening allergy. Daulatzai denies this and has filed a lawsuit. Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA) charged her with disorderly conduct. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and signatories from several national organizations have called for changes in policy and practice on the part of Southwest Airlines and the MDTA. The letter stated, “Ms. Daulatzai’s mistreatment by Southwest Airlines is part of a pattern and practice of profiling. Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seatsSAALT terminated its 7-year relationship with Southwest and gave back $10,000 in grant funding. 

This following post was written by Amara Majeed, a student at Brown University, and a former student of Professor Anila Daulatzai, who created the Boycott Southwest Campaign.

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This past spring, as I took “Towards a Critical Muslim Studies” taught by Professor Daulatzai, one of the myriad of topics that we learned about was institutionalized racism and Islamophobia and the ways in which Muslims have been racialized and criminalized during the War on Terror, and prior.

Watching a pregnant Anila being grabbed from her seat by her belt loop, so violently that her pants had been completely ripped open, was heartbreaking and painfully emblematic of the systems of oppression that Anila teaches her pupils to critically understand.

Arguably even more painful was Southwest’s shameful, disgusting cover-up. The incident was never about Professor Daulatzai’s nonexistent “life-threatening pet allergy.” Anila is a person often racialized as of a Middle Eastern descent; one of the very few images of her that existed on the internet was of her wearing a hijab. In other words, this was never about a fictitious allergy: this was about profiling, racism, and Islamophobia.

For Southwest to flip the narrative so completely, to paint Anila as a crazy, “combative” passenger and themselves as the kind-hearted organization that simply wanted to save her from a life-threatening allergy is absolutely disgusting, deceptive, and is reflective of the orientalist tropes about Muslims that the airline espouses.

The news has been saturated with stories of this particular incident – but I think it’s important for the world to know the answer to the question: who is Anila Daulatzai?

Professor Daulatzai isn’t just any professor. She is undoubtedly one of the most influential and remarkable individuals in my life.

I remember feeling extremely impressed when I first heard about Professor Daulatzai’s qualifications. She did three Master’s degrees: in Public Health, Anthropology, and Islamic Studies, and then, a PhD in Anthropology. Finally, she did five years of fieldwork in Afghanistan.

As I walked into her office, I remember feeling slightly intimidated. I didn’t even have a specific question to ask her – I felt that I was likely taking away from the schlew of other important appointments she needed to have, papers that she needed to grade, books that she needed to write.

Professor Daulatzai spent three and a half hours with me that day. Three and a half hours of helping me explore my Muslim identity, of making me feel that I had a safe space as a visible Muslim woman in Trump’s America. This is just one anecdote. This is just one, singular narrative that is emblematic of the type of professor- not even, the type of person that Anila Daulatzai is. The type of character and ethics that she has is truly remarkable, and I can honestly and without doubt say that I have met very few people that I admire as much as her. I’m not sure if this seems a little exaggeratory or superfluous, but I can only say that she is someone that you need to know to believe.

And I know that I am not the only student that feels this way. Many of Professor Daulatzai’s students, myself included, have fought their universities for her to secure a more permanent position. At Brown, we wrote letters to the administration, saturated with our individual experiences with Anila. We scheduled meetings with university officials while we were all swamped with exams during the pinnacle of finals week – to express how crucial of a role Professor Daulatzai played in our collegiate experience, to let them know how much pain it caused for us to see her go. And that’s the thing about Anila Daulatzai: there’s just something exceptional about her. Something so exceptional that her students are more than willing to spend their time and energies fighting for her, because we know that ultimately, the bodies of knowledge and understandings that she has imparted on us are things that we could never repay her for.

And we will not stop fighting for her: not then, not now.

During one of my last conversations with Professor Daulatzai, I remember her telling me that we people of color should not get too comfortable in this country. That at the end of the day, we mean nothing to this nation, this government, this institutionalized system. How our blood is too cheap, our bodies are too worthless – they will easily and without hesitation be discarded.

How heartbreakingly ironic this conversation seems now, as I rewatch her body, which officials knew to be one carrying a baby, being violently grabbed, thrown, and dragged around.

Southwest Airlines prides itself for its cheap national flights, which are especially appealing to students. Southwest, here is what I want you to know: we are not interested in cheap flights if that entails that the bodies of people of color and Muslims are also so cheap.

If our bodies are able to be yanked out of our seats so violently, if even the mention of pregnancy is not enough for undue violence to be used against us, if our narratives are erased and subject to whitewashed cover-ups: then we do not care for your cheap flights.

We do not care for your so-called Southern hospitality (which is either fictitious, or only applicable to a certain kind of people).

We do not care for your service.

We demand that Southwest Airlines issue an official apology, not some staged cover-up, to Anila Daulatzai, acknowledging the racist and Islamophobic roots of this horrible incident.

We demand that Southwest Airlines condemn police brutality.
We demand that Southwest Airlines implement anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and implicit biases trainings for all of its employees working on its aircrafts.

We demand justice for Anila Daulatzai. We demand justice for passengers of color, Muslim passengers, and passengers racialized as Muslims that are subject to this form of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism.

Until these demands are met, we refuse to fly on an airline that treats people of color and Muslims in this way. We refuse to be profiled. We refuse to be complicit in and happy consumers of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism: systems of oppression that result in violence against black, person of color, and Muslim bodies.

Please sign onto the Boycott Southwest campaign that I have made for her.
 Amara Majeed can be reached at amara_majeed@brown.edu.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ali Zaidi

    October 23, 2017 at 7:59 PM

    Incredibly shameful behavior by Southwest and the marshalls on-board.

  2. Avatar

    Amatullah

    October 24, 2017 at 1:40 AM

    I’m almost always frustrated as to why and how the other passengers make this happen?! If it continues this way, the world will very soon perish with people being killed in front of others while they either ignore or film it in their phones! Sick, sick world.
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  3. Avatar

    AF

    October 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Someone with a life-threatening allergy can go into anaphylaxis and die, EVEN with an epipen.

    The airline was exactly right to ask her to leave the plane if there was any possibility of allergic reaction to dogs who were already on board.

    It is a good idea for Muslims NOT to fabricate or exaggerate allergies to avoid dogs, due to unforeseeable results like this one.

    • Avatar

      Pamela

      June 3, 2018 at 8:25 AM

      Sadly this woman was so in the wrong. I was on this flight sitting 1 seat in front and she clearly told the attendant she did not have an epipen on her and that she was concerned she may have an allergic reaction being near the dog’s. The second flight attendant came back & spoke to her & she stated she was deathly allergic to dog’s and could feel her throat tightening just walking near the owners. She stated she felt she would be perfectly fine sitting in this seat position which is far enough away from the creatures. The marshal then came back and suggested she take another flight for her safety and the safety of the other passengers since she claimed she was ill prepared to even treat herself for any allergy that may arrise. He then told her she would have to exit the plane before it could depart, that the representative would assist her in getting the next flight out to her destination which had no other passenger’s other than human’s. She flat out refused him, No, she insisted she would not exit the plane, she paid her seat ticket, had to meet her father for therapy and she was going to meet him, and for him to go away and stop harassing her, she was with child, she was a professor and knew her rights. The Marshall again insisted for her own safety that she leave the flight, she was very egocentric and then ranted saying they would have to drag her, kicking, screaming, off the plane, half Arabic, half English. It actually began to concern several other people due to her hateful words she was spewing and multiple people told her for the safely of her unborn child it would be beneficial for her to stay safe & her unborn to remain safe. She became combative towards any one who spoke kindly towards her, including both attendants and the Marshall. Minutes or so later 2 MTA police officer’s arrived and confronted her, asked her to please rise from the seat, gather who bag, and come with them. She became very arrogant and refused to move from her seat, securing herself with the seat belt tightly, much tighter than you would imagine for a pregnant woman. She contested she would be fine, she removed herself from any danger, even thanked them for their concern, however was not going to exit the aircraft. The officer’s both asked her politely several times to leave the seat and come with them, she spoke in Arabic, English more citing some bible or koran scripture. The officer’s instructed her a final time to 1st stand up, gather your belongings and walk off the plane with us now, or we will have to remove you. She refused and from that exact second the taller of the two reached down, unbuckled the seat and stood her straight up from the seat, asked where is your bag, do you have a bag, she began shouting what are you doing, what are you doing, I am going to go be with my sick father, you pulling my pants down, stop, stop, stop, No, what are you doing, and the video picks up. Now I can understand why the video was not on for the 1st 15minutes or so, however they missed the attendants, the Marshall, or the police officers arrival. Even in the video it depicts how many people were asking her to walk, show them you are walking, as many also were telling her to comply with what the Marshall had asked of her, or the police would surely show up. I do believe witnessing it she felt the Marshall was just going to walk off and allow her to stay on the plane. What you see is only a short, very short ordeal of what the passengers in the last 2 to 3 rows dealt with for 20 minutes or more. She was absolutely in the wrong, had told them she had a severe allergy to dog’s and for the safety of her, her unborn, and the other passengers she was asked to take the next flight.

    • Avatar

      T.J Detwiler

      June 5, 2018 at 8:43 PM

      1. Although she should have complied with the officers, the amount of force used was unnecessary. I’m not sure what occurred before the cameras began rolling (neither is anyone else), but it began with forceful removal. She is entitled to know why she is being removed beforehand unless she is posing an immediate threat to herself or others.

      2. Officers should have been a bit more sympathetic after they ripped a woman’s pants open leaving her exposed to other passengers. I’m sure not many of you would have as much “hustle” as you believed she should have.

      3. AA’s policy is to remove you if you have a “life threatening” allergy w/o proper medical certification. She claims she did not tell them it was life threatening.

      4. I wish she had complied with officers for her own sake b/c the officers showed now respect for her pregnant body. I’m assumi she must not have had the genetics needed to be treated with respect.

      5. Imagine someone telling you “walk” with that type of grip around your chest? …not as doable as some would like to pretend.

      6. We could pre-judge the “I’m a professor” comment as elitist. But we often forget that ppl of color often HAVE to use their title to be treated with common decency.

      7. Comply with officers. File grievances against airlines when appropriate.

      -Signed: A Christian American Woman

  4. Avatar

    Usman

    October 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM

    I was in a court room last week and witnessed something that was analogous to the situation that occurred on the Southwest airline flight. An African American woman and her infant sat down behind me. The infant started to make noise and slapping the wooden courtroom benches loudly. The marshal politely asked the woman to take the baby out of the courtroom. The woman became defiant and refused to leave. She became argumentative, loud, and started causing a scene. The marshal then directly said, “I am now not telling you to leave the courtroom, but ordering you.” The woman still refused to comply. The marshal than called a supervisor who aided in removing the woman and baby. When I observed the situation a few thoughts came to my mind:

    1. That is the Judge’s courtroom and the marshal enforces the judge’s will

    2. When she was asked to leave the courtroom the first time, by her refusing, she was disrespecting law and order irrespective the reason she was asked to leave.

    3. By her creating an unnecessary scene, it did not reflect well on her.

    Southwest owns the airplane and at the time of flight, that plane belongs to the Captain. If the Captain orders someone off the plane, irrespective the reason, then the person should peacefully comply with his or her order. If that person feels a violation of civil rights or injustice is being done, then that grievance can be filed and fought through proper channels. Argument, defiance, and disobedience of a direct command from an air marshal who is only enforcing the Captain’s will amounts to trespassing and transgression.

    I watched the video of the forceful removal of this woman. She did not comply with multiple requests and continued to defy orders. If she had quietly and promptly exited the plane, then no physical force would have been required. I sensed her ego and arrogance prevented cooperation with the Captain’s order. Albeit, I am sensitive to the fact she is a pregnant Muslim sister. However, her being a Muslim Pakistani is a red herring, and now being conveniently utilized as a defense tactic.

  5. Avatar

    H. Munster

    October 24, 2017 at 4:33 PM

    I can’t add anything to the masterful dissection above other than complete agreement. And as far as a boycott, any indication that arrogant, entitled, selfish and childish individuals will refuse en masse to fly a certain airline will only encourage me to travel on that airline as much as possible…

  6. Avatar

    Amatullah

    October 25, 2017 at 3:07 AM

    I have NO idea whatsoever why MM deleted my earlier comment. Explanation please, MM team? I’m sure there was nothing which violated your policy.

    I wouldn’t disagree with the facts mentioned above BUT first things first, the article above clearly mentioned the fact that “life-threatening” allergy was fabricated and not told by Anila.
    Secondly, a person saw a woman in the courtroom who wouldn’t oblige, another thinks it was right on the part of Airplane because the woman could DIE, well, what then are your explanations for the below?
    “Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seats”
    If its easy for her ethnicity to be “conveniently utilized as a defense tactic”, I’ll say its easier to call it that and turn a blind eye to the ever-growing racial profiling against Muslims.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
    -X-X-X-X-

    • Aly Balagamwala

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 27, 2017 at 9:55 AM

      Dear Sister

      The comment was not deleted but for some reason the rules setup flagged it for approval which we have done. Sometimes a delay happens when a moderator doesn’t reach the comment due to other engagements and so the commenter thinks it has been deleted.

      -Aly
      Team Lead
      Comments Team

    • Avatar

      AJ

      October 28, 2017 at 1:13 PM

      Amatullah,

      It was clear from a Wa Po report right after this incident that airline crew believed or were led to believe that she had a life threatening allergy. There were already dogs on the plane.

      If someone with a life-threatening allergy is triggered, he or she can die from a rebound reaction even after an epipen is administered. In flight, it is impossible to administer proper follow-up treatment. You need an emergency room for that.

      Had this woman died or been injured by an allergic reaction and staff knew that there was this possibility, she or her family could have sued the airline and there would have been much negative publicity. The plane would have diverted its flight path and other passengers would have been greatly inconvenienced.

      Dog allergies are fairly rare, but it is no surprise that many Muslims seem to have them. I have seen adult Muslims run pell mell across rooms to get away from dogs. I have seen Muslims allow their children to dart into the street when a dog walks by. We have all heard of Muslim drivers refusing to carry service dogs in their vehicles in gross violation of our laws protecting the disabled.

      The assumption of most non-Muslims is probably that our “college professor” does not like dogs and thought that claiming an allergy would help her get her seat changed. She made too great an issue of it and actually convinced the flight crew that she had a serious allergy that could endanger her life or health. She then refused to comply with instructions to exit the plane.

      She (and Muslims) are not getting any sympathy for this.

      Quoting Niemoller’s poem, which refers to people who were beaten, imprisoned and gassed to death by the Nazis, is inappropriate.

  7. Avatar

    karpenter

    October 26, 2017 at 10:11 PM

    http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-southwest-airlines-woman-removed-20170927-story.html
    From The LaTimes Article
    Anila Daulatzai of Baltimore was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer and resisting arrest, said Lt. Kevin Ayd of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

    Daulatzai was transported to the Anne Arundel County District Court, where she was released on her own recognizance, Ayd said. She had been removed from the plane at the request of its captain.

    It’s Good That People Are Finally Being Charged For This Type Of Behavior

  8. Avatar

    Bryan Winters

    November 9, 2017 at 1:16 PM

    Wow, interesting article. Can anyone whether there is a university course entitled, “Towards a Critical Christian Studies” taught in a Muslim majority nation about institutionalized Christianophobia and the ways in which Christians have been racialized and criminalized during the the past thousand years?

  9. Avatar

    PAMELA D

    January 30, 2018 at 10:23 PM

    I ALWAYS FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES AND THEY ARE THE BEST. THIS LADY HAD AN ATTITUDE AND REFUSED TO LEAVE WHEN THEY TOLD HER. WHO GIVES A DAMN IF SHE IS A PROFESSOR SINCE SHE WAS TELLING THEM SHE WAS. DOES THAT MEAN HER BEHAVIOR WAS JUSTIFIED AND SHE CAN DO WHAT SHE WANTS. WELL SHE CAN’T BECAUSE SHE IS A NOBODY. IF SHE HAD A DEADLY ALLERGY TO DOGS THEN DON’T FLY OR BETTER YET SINCE SHE THOUGHT SO HIGHLY OF HERSELF BEING A PROFESSOR THEN SHE NEEDS TO GET HER OWN PLANE. THE IDIOT HELD UP THE PLANE AND WHO IS TO SAY HOW MANY PASSENGERS HAD A CONNECTING FLIGHT. THIS WAS AN EXCUSE AND SOUTHWEST AIRLINES HAD EVERY RIGHT TO PHYSICALLY REMOVE THE JERK FORCEFULLY SINCE SHE REFUSED TO WALK. SHE MADE HERSELF LOOK LIKE A MORON AND SOUTHWEST AIRLINES SHOULDN’T APOLOGIZE TO HER. SHE NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE TO SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FOR HER TERRIBLE BEHAVIOR. SHE NEEDS TO BE EMBARRASSED HOW SHE ACTED.

  10. Avatar

    PAMELA D

    January 30, 2018 at 10:33 PM

    DAULATZAI EMBARRASSED HERSELF AND LOOKED LIKE A FOOL, THEREFORE SHE GETS NO JUSTIFICATION FROM MANY OF US. MUSLIMS ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT WILL AGREE WITH HER ACTIONS. HOPE SHE DOESN’T FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES AGAIN ESPECIALLY SHE BETTER NOT BE SITTING NEXT TO ME!

  11. Avatar

    Ahmed

    February 19, 2018 at 2:41 PM

    She reminds me of every muslim women that gets a degree. They become selfish and entitled and think they can treat others like crap. Feel sorry for her husband if he’s still around.

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