An Iraqi student was reportedly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic.
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who studies at the University of California, Berkeley, was speaking to his uncle on a mobile phone prior to takeoff about attending a talk by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, reports the BBC.
A Southwest employee then escorted him off the plane, after a woman began staring at him following his use of the phrase ‘inshallah’, meaning ‘God willing’.
It was reported that Makhzoomi was asked by the Arabic-speaking member of staff, ‘Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?’
Makhzoomi told the New York Times:
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.
My family and I have been through a lot and this is just another one of the experiences I have had. Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.
Southwest later tried to defend their actions in a statement:
We wouldn’t remove passengers from flights without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures. We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft.
Makhzoomi, who entered the U.S. as a refugee in 2010, was searched publicly by police in the terminal before receiving a refund for his ticket and booking a new flight with a rival airline.