A man who screamed "This is America!" as he yanked a hijab off a complete stranger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight admitted to his guilt.
Gill Payne, 37, first told the woman (identified only as K.A.) to take off her hijab, according to reports. The passenger was obviously left bewildered, because how many of us expect a perfect stranger dictate what we wear?
When the passenger did not comply, Payne pulled the hijab off her head.
This news, when it started doing the rounds on Twitter, shocked and disgusted many. Several other Muslim women came forward with their own accounts of marginalization. Many wondered if justice would ever be served.
However, on Friday, Payne pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of a person's free exercise of religious rights.
"I stopped next to her seat, looked down at K.A., and told her to take off her hijab, stating something to the effect of, 'Take it off! This is America!' I then grabbed the back of the hijab and pulled it all the off, leaving K.A.'s entire head exposed," Payne admitted in his plea agreement. "As a result, K.A. felt violated and quickly pulled the hijab back up and covered her head again."
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Payne will spend two months under house detention. The maximum sentence for this offense is a year in jail, $100,000 in fines and five years on probation.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, remarked that no matter what their faith, "all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence."
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Olivia Harris