Student kicked off plane for speaking Arabic
An American university student got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after a passenger heard him speaking Arabic on his phone. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26 year old student studying at Berkeley, California was on a flight from Los Angeles to Oakland when the incident took place.
Before the flight took off, he rang his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about a function he attended the previous evening. Makhzoomi told the New York Times, “I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it.” At the end of the conversation, he and his uncle shared a customary farewell, “inshallah”, which translates to “if God is willing”.
A nearby passenger heard this and thought the conversation was “potentially threatening” according to a statement from Southwest Airlines. When he made eye contact with her, the woman left her seat and proceeded to the front of the place.
“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong.” he said. “Then I realised what was happening and I was just thinking, ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.”
The woman told United Airlines staff that she heard him say “Shahid”, meaning martyr, a term associated with jihad. Three FBI agents were called by airport security and quickly took Mr Makhoozmi off the plane, was searched with officers with dogs and was told he would not be allowed to re-board the flight.
The FBI confirmed that they found there to be no threat from Mr Makhzooimi. He alleges that the incident was fueled by Islamophobia and all he wants is an apology (which Southwest Airlines won’t give). He said “Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the word, not money. If they apologised, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”