After meeting the UN Secretary General in New York, a proud 26-year-old UC Berkeley Student by the name of Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from a Southwest Airlines aircraft after having a private phone conversation in Arabic.
As summarized by Slatest, the outcome is: If you speak Arabic, best keep your mouth shut when you’re boarding a plane in the United States. That seems to be the lesson from the humiliating experience this Berkeley senior lived through when he was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakand earlier this month.
Makhzoomi, an Iraqi refugee, was speaking to his uncle in Baghdad before the plane took off. And it seems the common Arabic expression “inshallah,” meaning “God willing,” set off alarm bells inside the head of a passenger. Makhzoomi noticed the female passenger was staring at him when he hung up and then she got up and left her seat.
“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he told the Daily Californian, a student-run newspaper at UC Berkeley. “Then I realized what was happening, and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’” Makhzoomi was quickly pulled off the plane. The passenger apparently said she had heard the word “shahid,” which means martyr. Makhzoomi denied that was the case.
“I told them, ‘This is what Islamophobia looks like,’” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “And that’s when they said I could not get on the plane, and they called the FBI.”
By the time the student was taken back to the gate, there were police dogs and security officers waiting for him. Makhzoomi says authorities repeatedly questioned him, and one officer even allegedly publicly searched his genital area. “That is when I couldn’t handle it, and my eyes began to water,” he said. “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me, and the humiliation made me so afraid.” Hours later, authorities allowed him to leave, but Southwest refused to fly him and refunded his ticket.