Man pleads guilty to pulling hijab off head of Albuquerque Muslim woman on flight


My first thought, upon reading the headline, was “Why can’t we just get along with each other?”

According to facts included in the document filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Yarbrough, Payne acknowledged standing up on a Southwest Airlines plane, still in flight, from Chicago to Albuquerque, walking up to the woman he did not know in an aisle seat ahead of him and saying something like, “Take it off! This is America!” then pulling off her head scarf, leaving her head exposed.

The woman, who felt violated, quickly grabbed the hijab and covered her head again. Payne also admitted that he knew it was part of the religious practice to wear the hijab.

(His actual language was apparently more colorful.)

Sadly, the authorities didn’t seem to take the incident seriously, at first. When the plane landed she had to insist the airport police be summoned, but they didn’t interview any of the other passengers. The police took a report but did not file criminal charges.

As part of the plea deal, the guy may receive two months of home detention. However, the woman is strongly considering a civil lawsuit.


For once, I agree with the civil lawsuit approach…tbe bubba dude was way wrong and needs to suffer in the true amercan way, his wallet.


Would the man be arrested if he pulled off the veil of a Catholic woman in Mass?


Yes, it would generally be considered an assault. It would probably require that the victim press charges, as it would be a low level misdemeanor. Also, it could be considered interrupting a religious service, which will also get you arrested in the US.


Maybe, maybe not. The problem is that Muslim women are required to wear the hijab, wearing a veil is not.

As for the story, this guy is a total jerk.
I used to ride the bus with women wearing hijabs and they would get off at nursing homes, one Catholic and one Jewish. I wonder who this guy will have to depend on for care in his old age.


Off course he would. No one has a right to do something like that–not to anyone.


It probably would be considered battery, so yes, they could be arrested and I would say they should be.


The police don’t file criminal charges. They may arrest someone for a criminal offense. A DA would indict or file criminal charges in a court of law. The police had no jurisdiction in this case because it is a federal offense.

The police, DA and courts have to follow a bunch of rules before they do anything. By following the rules the man was eventually convicted of a crime.

I’m just tired of the police being damned if they do or damned if they don’t attitude of many in the public. It is a very difficult job.


What a dreadful thing this man did. It is very sad that the reaction was not more severe on the part of the authorities and the airplane crew. Police should have been waiting to take the man into custody upon the plane reaching its destination.


Thank you for clarifying this. I apologize for creating any confusion.

Yes, I agree, the police (in any locale) perform difficult and dangerous work. They deserve encouragement and support for the vital role they perform.

The point I was trying to make (and did poorly) is that the victim did not initially receive support from the authorities (both airline and airport.)


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