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College Student Says Speaking Arabic Got Him Booted From Southwest Flight

A UC Berkeley student returning from an audience with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon claims he learned a real-world lesson about Islamaphobia when he was kicked off his flight after speaking on his phone in Arabic.

UC Berkeley student Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was understandably proud that he had the chance to ask United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a question during a dinner he was lucky enough to attend. After boarding his Southwest Airlines flight home the next day, the 26-year-old says he took a moment to call his uncle to recount his experience. Makhzoomi claims that phone call set off a chain of events he never saw coming.

“I just called him and talked to him about it and everything, and he told me (to) call him when I get to Oakland, and I said, ‘insha’Allah insha’Allah (God willing), I will call you when I arrive.’ And during the conversation a lady was staring at me,” Makhzoomi recounted to CNN. “One guy came with police officers within two minutes — I can’t believe how fast they were — and told me to get off the plane.”

Makhzoomi says the indignity he suffered only got worse from there. The college student claims he was subjected to a brusk interrogation and physical search by airline employees before being handed over to the FBI for more questioning.

Southwest Airlines confirmed that a passenger was removed from the flight “to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft.” The airline, however, dismissed the notion that any passenger would be removed because of racial or ethnic profiling.

“We wouldn’t remove a passenger from a flight without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures,” Southwest officials told CNN in a written statement. ”Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind. Our company could not survive if we believed otherwise. In fact, a cursory view of our workforce, as well as our expansive, multicultural customer base, is a reliable indicator that we exalt and appreciate diversity.”

Although Makhzoomi is a political science student, he insists that he does not want his story to become politicized. “All I want is an apology today,” he told reporters. “We as a people, Iraqi, American, Iranian, we share one thing in common, and that is our dignity. If someone tries to take that away from us, we should fight but not with aggression, with knowledge and education. One must stand for his principle.”

[Photo: Khairuldeen Makhzoomi]

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16 Comments
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zarkov505 April 21, 2016

And now Southwest says in so many words that it was what the guy said, not his language. http://www.flyertalk.com/articles/airline-says-man-not-booted-for-speaking-arabic.html

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Boggie Dog April 20, 2016

He should sue the airline, LEO's involved, and the reporting passenger and let the courts sort it out.

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alphaod April 19, 2016

What needs to be done with charging the passenger that made the false report.

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AlwaysFlyStar April 19, 2016

The thing that makes me most believe this was likely a wrongful act by the airline is it's response. No apology, no, 'We will investigate the incident.' Instead, just an, 'Oh no. Nobody that works for us could ever do anything wrong.' Not exactly the most trustworthy corporate attitude.

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diver858 April 19, 2016

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/ndjkp9/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-southwest-airlines-removes-an-arabic-speaking-passenger