On nation’s airlines, Islamophobia flies free

Here’s an idea. If you’re uncomfortable with someone speaking Arabic on an airplane, maybe you should get off.

But the long pattern of passengers being thrown off airplanes continued when a college student was tossed off a Southwest Airlines flight in California, the New York Times reports.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, an Iraqi refugee and senior at the University of California Berkley, called his uncle to tell him about a speech he attended featuring United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Makhzoomi, 26, knew something was wrong as soon as he finished his phone call and saw that a woman sitting in front of him had turned around in her seat to stare at him, he said. She headed for the airplane door soon after he told his uncle that he would call again when he landed, and qualified it with a common phrase in Arabic, “inshallah,” meaning “god willing.”

“That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ because it was so weird,” Mr. Makhzoomi said.

That is exactly what happened. An Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent 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?”

Mr. Makhzoomi said he was afraid, and that the employee spoke to him “like I was an animal.”

“We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft,” the company said in a statement. “Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”

Clearly not true.

Three agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived and brought him into a private room where they questioned him, he said. They asked about his mother, who lives with him and his younger brother in Oakland. They also asked about his father, Khalid Makhzoomi, a former Iraqi diplomat who was jailed in Abu Ghraib prison by Saddam Hussein and later killed by the dictator’s regime, according to Mr. Makhzoomi. His family came to the United States in 2010.

“My family and I have been through a lot and this is just another one of the experiences I have had,” he told the Times. “Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”

Makhzoomi flew Delta to his destination.