Los Angeles: A 26-year-old Muslim student in the US was booted from a Southwest flight after another passenger felt threatened when he spoke in Arabic.
For Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a student at University of California, Berkeley, it was a shocking turn when he was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger became alarmed when she heard him saying ‘Inshallah’ which means ‘God willing’.
‘I lived under Saddam Hussein – I know what discrimination feels like,’ said the young man who came to the US in 2010 as an Iraqi refugee, The Independent reported.
According to media reports, the incident took place in April this year.
Once seated, Makhzoomi called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he’d been excited to attend the day before that included a speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
At the end of the conversation, he and his uncle shared a customary farewell – “Inshallah.”
The political science student added that a nearby passenger overheard his conversation with his uncle and felt alarmed and proceeded to the front of the plane.
“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,” he told CNN.
Soon after, an Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee of came to his seat and escorted him off the plane a few minutes after his call ended, he said. The man introduced himself in Arabic and then switched to English to ask, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?”
Makhzoomi was afraid, and that the employee spoke to him “like I was an animal.”
FBI agents escorted him away. He was not allowed to reboard the Oakland-bound plane and was forced to book a flight on another airline.
This experience left him shaken and only adds to the bad memories.
“The US is the land of freedom. People respect the rule of law. How could people be humiliated like this? That was the real shock,” he told The Independent.
A complaint with the US Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings against Southwest Airlines for “racial and religious profiling of a Muslim passenger” has been filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“We don’t want this to become ‘normal’,” said Saba Maher, civil rights coordinator of the local CAIR chapter.
“We are looking for a federal investigation and for the Department of Transportation to hold Southwest Airlines accountable.”
Despite the traumatic ordeal, Makhzoomi is applying for his masters and is grateful that the US has provided him with “the best education, and so many opportunities”.
“This our home. We don’t have another home. The experience was just unpleasant,” he said.
With PTI inputs