Washington, D.C. — On April 6, 2018, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) joined MPower Change and 18MillionRising.org (18MR), to insist Southwest Airlines take immediate action in response to passenger John Guandolo’s actions on March 23, 2018.
In the incident, Guandolo took an unauthorized photo of a Southwest Airlines employee, labeled the perceivably Muslim employee a “jihadi,” and posted the photo publicly on Twitter. The response of Southwest Airlines was constrained to urging Twitter to take down the post and is haplessly inadequate.
The lack of action signals a tolerance for hate that is worrying. By declining to take substantive action, Southwest Airlines continues to endanger the personal safety of employees and passengers and contribute to a broader environment of anti-Muslim bigotry.
In a letter sent to Southwest Airlines, the coalition wrote, in part:
“Mr. Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent, presents a viable, active threat to employees and passengers. He is a known and widely-recognized anti-Muslim extremist who advocates for and trains others on attacking Muslims. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently called for Guandolo to be investigated by the FBI after he tweeted an image purporting to show the bombing of “CAIR HQ” in Washington, D.C. Last summer, a restraining order was issued against Guandolo by a Minnesota judge after he was cited for battery for allegedly assaulting a sheriff.”
“Sadly, this fits a pattern: communities of color endure profiling at airports and on airlines on a regular basis. In fact, Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Sikh passengers have experienced a disproportionately high level of discrimination in the 17 years since September 11, 2001, said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. Flying while brown means that passengers are often subjected to secondary screenings, interrogations, bodily searches, and removal from airplanes for no legitimate reason at all. This criminalization of brown bodies continues to put our communities at risk.”
“Southwest’s tepid response to the actions of unhinged anti-Muslim extremist John Guandolo adds to an already fraught environment for Muslim — and perceived Muslim — passengers and employees on its flights,” said Mohammad Khan, Campaign Director of MPower Change. “Failure to take direct, corrective action — by barring Guandolo from future flights — will only add to the perception of many that Southwest does not prioritize safety for its passengers and employees from certain backgrounds.”
“Southwest Airlines is the airline where we have seen the most incidents of Muslims and people perceived as Muslim being the targets of hate,” said Tanzila Ahmed, Campaign Strategist of 18MillionRising.org. “Whether employee or passenger—no one should be made to feel unsafe on a flight because of their race, religion, or background.”
When it comes to tolerating anti-Muslim bigotry and perpetuating hate, Southwest Airlines is a repeat offender. In October of 2017, we held themaccountable for the mistreatment of Anila Daulatzai, a Muslim professor, who was pulled from her seat and dragged through the aisle by law enforcement agents. Anila was pregnant at the time. Before that, in April 2016, a Muslim student was harassed, kicked and removed from a flight for saying “InshAllah” to his father over the phone, one of several incidents that year, which prompted SAALT to terminate a long standing partnership with Southwest Airlines.
Our response to hate will not waver: while financial support remains crucial to our cause, we will hold our supporters to the same moral and ethical standards we strive for as organizations. Stand with us as we take on hate, today and always.
18MR, MPower Change, & SAALT
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that elevates the voices and perspectives of South Asian individuals and organizations to build a more just and inclusive society in the United States. SAALT is the coordinating entity of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 60 organizations that serve, organize, and advocate on behalf of the South Asian community across the country.