A student from the University of California was requested to get off a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking in Arabic. The 26-year-old Arab passenger demanded an apology from the airlines over the incident and considers it a clear case of “Islamophobia.”
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi said he was removed from the flight on April 9 before it took off for speaking in Arabic over the phone. He said that he was travelling from Los Angeles to Oakland and while he waited for the flight to take off he decided to call his uncle, a political analyst, in Baghdad. He told him about meeting the UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon the day before over dinner. The conversation between him and his uncle was in Arabic.
“I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” the New York Times quoted Makhzoomi as saying.
The Arab passenger added that at the mention of the phrase “Inshallah”, which means “God willing” during the conversation, a woman stared at him. He then saw her leave the plane abruptly. A short while later, an Arabic speaking staff escorted him out of the plane and informed him that he can’t get back on the plane, the BBC reported.
“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,” the CNN quoted him as saying. Southwest Airlines refused to provide any detail on the incident but said that it doesn’t tolerate any form of discrimination.
Makhzoomi is a double major in Political Science and Near Eastern studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He came to the US six years ago as an Iraqi refugee and his research now focuses on how to improve the standard of living in his home country, the Stuff.co.nz reported.
“My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had,” he said. “Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologised, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”