FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Eighteen-month-old Riyanna has been called a lot of things: cute, adorable and now ... a suspected terrorist.
She was called that on Tuesday night at the Ft Lauderdale Airport. She and her parents had just boarded a JetBlue flight when an airline employee approached them and asked them to get off the plane, saying representatives from the Transportation Security Agency wanted to speak to them.
"And I said, 'For what?'" Riyanna's mother said on Wednesday. "And he said, 'Well, it's not you or your husband. Your daughter was flagged as no fly.' I said, 'Excuse me?'"
Riyanna's father was flabbergasted.
"It's absurd," he said. "It made no sense. Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?"
Riyanna's parents, who asked not to be identified, said they think they know the answer to that question. They believe they were profiled because they are both of Middle Eastern descent. Riyanna's mother wears a hijab, a traditional head scarf. That's why they have asked to remain anonymous. They said they're concerned about repercussions. That said, they are both Americans, born and raised in New Jersey, just like their daughter.
Riyanna's parents said once they were taken off the plane, they were met by TSA agents and made to stand in the terminal for about 30 minutes.
"We were put on display like a circus act because my wife wears a hijab," Riyanna's father said.
Eventually, the child's parents said they were told they could reboard the plane, though they added that nobody offered an apology or even an explanation for what happened. The family refused to get back on the plane because they were embarrassed. They chose instead to leave the airport, but they still want to know why and how this happened.
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