The issue of people being asked to leave aircraft because of “suspicious behaviour” is a sad predicament of our anxious times.
But at least for two women, one flight morphed into an uplifting experience which underlines the importance of dialogue and humanity.
Jiva Akbor was texting friends while waiting for her delayed Malaga-bound flight in Glasgow to take off. Sitting beside her is a woman, whom Akbor later names as Beverley, accompanied by her 11-year-old son.
After learning that the car belonging to an Islamic group she’s part of was broken into and ransacked, Akbor wrote on WhatsApp: “HasbiAllahu la ilaaha illaahu alayhi tawakaltu may Allah make the day easy for you all!”
At that point the woman stood up from her seat, left and returned with two air hostesses.
“She was in sheer panic, clearly flustered and didn’t get into the seat immediately,” Akbor wrote in a long Facebook post.
“Then I heard one of the air hostesses say ‘You can take your seat ma’am’ to her. But she stood there, with a look of fright on her face. I was confused. For a split second I though she had some health issue or something and about to have a panic attack.”
“At that moment she looked at me and said, ‘I saw you write a text message and you wrote Allah on it’. My heart stopped. And I thought Oh Ma Goddd.”
Akbor explained to the woman that Allah just meant God in Arabic. Luckily the hostess remained calm and told the woman she was free to leave the flight if she felt uncomfortable.
The woman decided to stay and returned to her seat, but she was “literally shaking, breathing heavy and had gone flush in the face.”
Akbor turned to her and started talking in a bid to calm her down without causing more fear.
I quickly filled her in and told her that ‘I’m just a regular Muslim girl travelling, on my way to tour Spain, I was born and bred in Greater Manchester, England and she has nothing to worry about being sat next to me’.
After about 15mins of conversation I could feel her calming down and starting to accept what I was telling her. I rubbed her arm and told her I am not a threat to her.
The two started chatting about religion, families, their upbringings, views on current events, Brexit, the exchange rate and even Pokémon Go.
More than one time the woman, feeling remorseful, apologised to Akbor for her behaviour:
We spoke more, and more and more. And in the words being exchanged between us I could see a change in her heart. She felt regret. Sincere regret.
Long story short: the woman and Akbor became friends, exchanging life stories, sharing pictures and laughter:
When I ordered a bottle of water she paid for it. And then perhaps one of the most sweetest moments ever- she pulled out a small bottle of perfume which she told me was her favourite one and particularly this bottle because it has a star on the lid. And stars are special to her they inspire her and so she wanted me to have it.
Akbor concluded, saying:
Today I had one of the most interesting and most memorable flights of my life. I made a friend called Beverley who made a mistake and acknowledged it. I met a lady who is deep down inside a wonderful, wonderful human and showed me that the fear-mongering purposely and strategically carried out in this world by the powers-that-be today are very, very real and can make an ordinary person have the most shocking of reactions…but if we’re blessed enough ALLAH can easily turn them into the most amazing of life’s moments.
Read the whole Facebook post here: