Airline Agent Asks Girl, 12, to Remove Her Hijab Before Allowing Her to Board Plane

Fatima Abdelrahman was travelling without family for the first time.
Fatima Abdelrahman

Fatima Abdelrahman was flying from San Francisco to Canada.

A 12-year-old girl is upset after she says she was asked to remove her hijab by an Air Canada gate agent. 

Fatima Abdelrahman was flying from San Francisco to Canada for a U.S. squash tournament when, as she was boarding the plane, she was asked by a gate agent to remove her hijab so he could verify her identity, according to Fatima’s sister, Sabreen Abdelrahman.

In her passport photo, which was taken a few years ago, Fatima isn’t wearing her hijab. 

“She said, ‘I can’t do that,’” Sabreen told

Sabreen, 19, said her sister didn’t understand why she was being asked to remove her hijab, but after the gate agent insisted, Fatima agreed to comply but asked to do so in a private room. Instead, Sabreen said her sister told her that the male agent called a female agent over, who took her into a corner and had her briefly remove the head covering. 

“My sister took it off. The Air Canada agent glanced over and said OK,” Sabreen explained. “There wasn’t a substantial reason for that check. It was waste of time.”

Fatima was frustrated and angry with the encounter, her sister said.

"I didn’t want her to be stressed out. It was her first time traveling without her family,” Sabreen added. 

After Sabreen tweeted about the incident, she said an Air Canada agent contacted her, citing a Canadian law that requires identity verification in which the face is clearly visible. 

The family doesn’t think the law justifies what happened as Fatima’s face was visible with her hijab on. Air Canada did eventually issue a written apology to the family, according to Sabreen.

“I don’t know what the Air Canada gate agent’s intentions were,” Sabreen said. “In the end, it shows a fear of a 12-year-old and her beliefs because of what she was wearing and he decided to single her out.”

Air Canada did not respond to’s request for comment.