Berkeley Student Removed From Southwest Airlines Flight for Speaking Arabic

A senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was removed from a flight from Los Angeles to Oakland on April 6 after another passenger reported him to crew members him for speaking Arabic, The New York Times reports.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, was waiting to take off when he decided to call his uncle in Baghdad. He wanted to tell him about an event he had just attended in LA where United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was speaking.


This when he noticed that a woman sitting in front of him had turned around in her seat to stare. Makhzoomi ended the phone call. “Inshallah,” he told his uncle, a common Arabic phrase meaning “God willing”, The Washington Post reports. After hanging up, he noticed that the woman going to the front of the plane. Makhzoomi told the Post that he thought to himself, I hope she’s not reporting me. Unfortunately, that's what she was doing—she apparently told the crew she heard Makhzoomi making "potentially threatening comments," according to the Times.

Makhzoomi was then escorted off the plane by a Southwest Airlines employee who asked him, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?”

“I said to him, ‘This is what Islamophobia got this country into,’ and that made him so angry. That is when he told me I could not go back on the plane,” he told the Times.

Law enforcement officials arrived shortly after this, and Makhzoomi was then brought into the terminal and searched in front of a crowd of people and police officers. Then three FBI agents questioned him in a private room.

In a statement, Southwest said, “We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.” But Makhzoomi wasn't convinced.

“I came here to the U.S. because I believed in the values of this country,” Makhzoomi told the Post. “Islamophobia does not serve to fight terror. It plays right into the Islamic State game of striking fear among us.”