A 37-year-old man, who ripped off a Muslim woman’s hijab on a flight while shouting “this is America!”, has been sentenced to a year of probation, including two months of home confinement. Gill Parker Payne was also fined USD 1,000 for the attack, according to a statement by the US Attorney’s Office in the District of New Mexico.
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“You hurt me, you disrespected me you violated me,” the victim, Khawla Abdel-Haq was quoted as saying in court by the Albuquerque Journal.
“I was scared, and it shouldn’t be like that,” she said, adding that she did not leave her home for weeks out of fear after the in-flight attack last December.
Payne, from North Carolina, was sentenced in US District Court on Tuesday to a year of probation, including two months of home confinement.
US Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough also ordered Payne to pay a USD 1,000 fine, along with a nearly USD 4,000 fee.
In May, Payne had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of obstructing a person’s free exercise of religious beliefs.
Payne also apologised during yesterday’s hearing and said he has taken online courses to familiarise himself with other religions and recently toured a mosque in hopes of learning more about Islam.
“I’m embarrassed. I’m 100 per cent embarrassed,” he was quoted as saying.
Payne said he was drunk on the flight and “doesn’t fully remember everything” that happened.
But Abdel-Haq remembers.
“I’m not gonna forget it. It’s going to be with me every minute of every day of my life,” she said.
She was sitting in an aisle seat on the Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque after a trip to Ohio when Payne approached her about 30 minutes before the flight landed, she said.
“I was minding my own business. He went and he grabbed my scarf, my hijab, and he told me, ‘Take it off… This is America,'” she said of the incident.
A shaken Haq pulled the scarf back onto her head. She met with police after the flight landed, and the FBI launched an investigation.
Before he announced the sentence, Yarbrough said he had taken into account Haq’s willingness to forgive along with the public shaming Payne endured and his recent efforts to learn about world religions.
“I hope that that has made an impact on the way you see the world,” Yarbrough said.
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