Muslim student removed from flight for speaking Arabic

Los Angeles: A 26-year-old Muslim student in the US, who was talking on the phone about a question on the Islamic State he asked the UN Secretary-General, was booted from a Southwest flight after another passenger felt threatened when he spoke in Arabic.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi. Pic/Facebook
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi. Pic/Facebook

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, student at University of California, who came to the US as an Iraqi refugee was taken off a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Oakland after he called an uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he attended that included a speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it," Makhzoomi said. At the end of the conversation, he and his uncle shared a customary farewell "inshallah," which translates to "if God is willing." He told his uncle about the moment when he got to ask the secretary general a question about the Islamic State.

A nearby passenger overheard his conversation with his uncle and felt alarmed by his "potentially threatening comments," according to a statement from Southwest Airlines.

The woman had told airline staff that she heard him say "Shahid," meaning martyr, a term associated with jihad. Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there had been at least six cases of Muslims being pulled off flights so far this year.

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