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Forced to remove hijab

A Muslim civil rights group says Air Canada employees forced a 12-year-old member of the U.S. national junior squash team to remove her hijab at the San Francisco airport last month.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says Fatima Abdelrahman was waiting in line to board her flight to Toronto on Aug. 1 when an Air Canada agent approached her and demanded she remove the religious head covering.

A letter of complaint to the airline says Fatima, who was with her team en route to an international tournament, explained to the agent that she chooses to wear a hijab as part of her faith.

The letter says she requested a private screening area but Air Canada employees refused the request and escorted her to a nearby tunnel where she had to remove her hijab publicly.

Fatima's older sister complained about the incident on Twitter the same day. Air Canada responded in less than 30 minutes, tweeting it was "sorry to hear" about the situation and asking for the passenger's booking details in order to follow up.

The council's San Francisco Bay Area office says the airline's response failed to acknowledge the emotional distress and "discriminatory" nature of its actions, and demands monetary damages and a formal apology for Fatima as well as cultural competency training for all employees.

Air Canada did not immediately respond to questions from The Canadian Press.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which was not involved in the incident, has said passengers can keep their head coverings on during the screening process.



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