Khairuldeen Mahkhzoomi claims Southwest Airlines removed him from a flight and authorities asked him why he spoke Arabic on his phone.
“I felt oppressed. I was afraid. He said, ‘You seem that you were having a serious conversation on the phone. Who were you talking to?’” said Mahkhzoomi.
He phoned his uncle in Baghdad to discuss a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General ban Ki-moon.
“I just called him and talked to him about it and everything, and he told me (to) call him when I get to Oakland, and I said, ‘insha’Allah insha’Allah (God willing), I will call you when I arrive.’ And during the conversation a lady was staring at me,” he explained.
Makhzoomi thought the lady had a problem with the volume of his voice, but after she left the plane another man with two officers came up to him to remove him.
“The guy who came and pulled me from the plane, he took me to the jet bridge, I believe he worked with Southwest and I must say he was aggressive in the way he treated me. He was not very nice. He tried to speak to me in Arabic, but I couldn’t understand his Arabic, so I asked him to speak to me in English,” said Makhzoomi.
Southwest did not go into depth about the incident:
Prior to the departure of Flight 4620, our crew made the decision to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft. A group of our employees including the flight crew made the decision to review the situation. We understand local law enforcement also spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate.
To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not publicly share any further specifics of the event. We prefer to communicate directly with our customers to address concerns and feedback regarding their travel experience.
The FBI said they did not need to take further action. Makhzoomi has demanded an apology.
“All I want is an apology today,” he said. “We as a people, Iraqi, American, Iranian, we share one thing in common, and that is our dignity. If someone tries to take that away from us, we should fight but not with aggression, with knowledge and education. One must stand for his principle.”
The experience forced Makhzoomi to contact the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“It’s frightening on an individual level. This story is frightening when it’s a singular incident,” declared CAIR representative Zahra Billoo, “and it’s problematic that there’s numerous complaints against Southwest and others this year. This is just the new normal for Muslims while flying.”