Justice

A College Student Was Kicked off a Flight After Speaking Arabic

April 15th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

An Iraqi college student was kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight in California after he was overheard speaking Arabic, the Daily Californian reports.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi

On April 6, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a political science senior at UC Berkeley, wrapped up a phone conversation using the common Arabic phrase "Inshallah," which means "God willing."

According to Makhzoomi, after he hung up, he noticed a female passenger giving him a concerned look.

"She kept staring at me and I didn't know what was wrong," he told the Daily Californian. "Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking 'I hope she's not reporting me.'"

Makhzoomi tells the Daily Californian that minutes after the women passenger left her seat, he was escorted from the plane and questioned by security agents, who publicly searched his genital area and asked if he was hiding weapons.

The woman on the plane, he said, thought she heard the word "Shahid," or "martyr," a phrase with associations to the deadly terrorist strikes that have dominated headlines in recent years.

Makhzoomi, who fled violence in Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed, said the process was frightening and humiliating.

“The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father. When I got home, I just slept for a few days.”

Southwest Airlines

According to the Daily Californian, Makhzoomi was issued a refund, but was not offered any sort of apology. He was not placed on another flight home, either.

ATTN: reached out to Southwest, but a representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Muslim passengers often face discrimination on planes.

Makhzoomi's story is hardly the first of its kind. On Friday, just a day after Makhzoomi's story was highlighted by the Daily Californian, another story of apparent Islamophobia made the rounds. Hakima Abdulle, a Somali woman traveling on a Southwest flight, was asked to get off of the plane after switching seats with a passenger. She was not offered any explanation, the Independent reported.

Hakima Abdulle

Earlier in April, a Muslim family called for a formal apology from United Airlines after they were kicked off of a flight last month. "I felt singled-out, humiliated, and helpless," the mother said, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The stories come as Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. and Europe face increased levels of scrutiny and suspicion following a string of high-profile terrorist attacks, including calls from Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for increased patrols of Muslim neighborhoods.