The man who ripped off a Muslim woman’s hijab on a Southwest Airlines flight in December 2015 will soon be sentenced.
Gill Parker Payne, a 37-year old North Carolina man, is awaiting sentencing for a hate crime that he committed last December. En-route to Albuquerque from Chicago on a Southwest Airlines flight, Payne noticed a woman wearing a hijab sitting a couple of rows in front of him. Either emboldened by the San Bernardino shootings, the Donald Trump effect, or just general Islamophobia, Payne walked up to the Muslim woman just as the plane was about to land, and ordered her to take her hijab off.
According to the Washington Post, Payne shouted at the woman, 'This is America.' The woman refused to take her hijab off. Payne, then in an outrageous display of arrogance and attitude, pulled the hijab off the woman's head. The Muslim woman, who is only identified as K.A. by the Justice Department, felt violated, and quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.
Southwest Airlines reported the incident to the concerned authorities. A case was filed against Payne, charging him with using force to obstruct the Muslim woman's free exercise of her religious beliefs, intentionally. Payne pleaded guilty in a New Mexico Federal Court. In the plea agreement, Payne admits that he knew the religious significance of the hijab to Muslims at the time he pulled it off the woman's head.
The plea agreement of Payne calls for two months of home detention. Last Friday, the Court approved Payne's plea agreement, according to his attorney, Amber Fayerberg. The sentencing hearing, that is yet to be scheduled, would determine the period and probation conditions. Fayerberg, speaking to The Huffington Post, said that her client has taken responsibility for his actions, and has already begun the healing process to move forward with his life.
The maximum sentence for the hate crime that Payne committed is one year imprisonment and a fine of about $100,000. In a statement, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, said that all the Americans, irrespective of their faith, has a right to exercise their religious beliefs peacefully, free from violence and discrimination.
A man ripped off a woman's hijab, said "This is America!" https://t.co/tIk2DQa4aJ
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) May 13, 2016
Threatening or using force against an American individual because of his/her faith is an attack on the fundamental values of the nation. The Civil Rights Division would continue to be vigilant in protecting each and every American citizen's guaranteed religious liberties.
The incident happened just a few days after Donald Trump's infamous proposal for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the U.S., two weeks after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, and a month after the Paris terror attacks.
According to the Georgetown University's Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project focused on Islamophobia, 2015 saw increased anti-Muslim violence and vandalism, including murders, physical assaults, shootings/bombings, and threats against institutions and people.