CA: Student removed from airline for speaking Arabic

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a University of California-Berkeley student and Iraqi refugee, says he was escorted out of Southwest flight after a passenger heard him speaking Arabic and reported him as a possible safety threat.

LOS ANGELES: A University of California, Berkeley student who came to the US as an Iraqi refugee says he was unfairly removed from a flight at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month because a fellow passenger was alarmed by an innocent conversation he was having in Arabic.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement Sunday that the passenger, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, was taken off the April 9 flight from Los Angeles to Oakland, California, for questioning and the plane took off while that was happening. But the airline said it has not received a direct complaint from Makhzoomi, and he has not responded to several attempts to reach him.

Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old senior at UC Berkeley, said that he was calling his uncle before the flight to tell him about a speech he had attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” Makhzoomi told the New York Times.

Makhzoomi told his uncle about asking a question on the Islamic State group at the event. He said he used the phrase “inshallah,” meaning “god willing,” at the end of the conversation, and those things might have led to suspicion.

He said the woman sitting in front of him on the plane began staring at him. “That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ ” Makhzoomi said.

Makhzoomi said an Arabic-speaking Southwest employee came and escorted him off the plane and asked him why he had been speaking Arabic.

Makhzoomi said he told the employee “This is what Islamophobia got this country into.” Makhzoomi said that made the man angry and that was when he was told he could not get back on the plane.

The FBI in Los Angeles said in a statement that it investigated the situation by request and found no further action was necessary.

Southwest said it could not offer specific comments before talking to Makhzoomi. The airline’s statement said it regrets any less-than-positive experience by a customer, but its primary focus is on safety and its crew members followed protocol. It added that the company “neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”

Makhzoomi said he was able to get book a flight on another airline and got home eight hours later than planned.

“My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had,” he told the Times. “Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”

2 replies

  1. The average American is so highly ignorant of the rest of the world. It boggles my mind that just because of somebody’s dress or language, they consider others as threats to their safety.

    In other places, they would be called bigots!

  2. WOW! last time I checked it wasn’t white english speaking people blowing stuff up, hacking off heads, bringing down planes and more. The sad reality is extra precaution and safety these days has become the reality. A sad reality. Mr. Makhzoomi knows how to speak english but chose to speak Arabic or Kurdish and on a flight in nervous America because he likely didn’t want anyone to overhear or understand what he was saying. REGARDLESS – of what we think – we were not there. Let’s say he WAS part of some diabolical plan. Some losers somewhere on the planet would be celebrating more innocent people went down. To err on the side of caution isn’t a bad thing. He likely will get some free flights, and an apology….who knows…maybe some cash out of this as well. For what…for being inconvenienced while authorities checked him out? I’m NOT even American – but it’s their country, and their airways, their laws, and their safety. I don’t agree with American politics or foreign policy! But they have the right to govern themselves, and to protect themselves. That doesn’t make them bigots or ignorant. Furthermore – previous generations embraced the opportunities of a new life in America and other countries. Why is it repeatedly today everyone is so easily offended? because this generation of refugees does NOT want to integrate?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.