Casablanca – A Muslim in the US was asked to step out of the plane after another passenger overheard him saying “inshallah” in Arabic.
On a Southwest Plane bound to Oakland, Khairuldeen Makhzoumi, a Muslim Berkley graduate, phoned his uncle in Iraq, his country of origin, to tell him about a dinner with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he had attended the previous day. Before he hung up, he said “inshallah” a phrase that is usually invoked in Arabic conversations, meaning God Willing.
A woman who had been staring at him as he talked on the phone reported him, and soon enough a police officer came in and asked him to step out of the plane:
“One guy came with police officers within two minutes — I can’t believe how fast they were — and told me to get off the plane,” Khairuldeen told CNN.
As the agent led Khairuldeen outside, he told him, “You need to be very honest with us with what you said about the martyrs. Tell us everything you know about the martyrs,” and blamed him for speaking in Arabic, given “today’s political climate”.
According to British news source, The Independent, although the 26-year-old political science graduate explained that the word he said at the end of the phone call merely meant God Willing, the authorities at Los Angeles International Airport searched him, took his wallet away, and had dogs sniff his luggage.
Brandy King, Southwest Airlines spokeswoman, said in a statement that the investigation took place after suspicion of “potentially threatening comments”.
“The internal review determined that it was the content of the conversation, not the language used, that prompted the report leading to the investigation. Our crew responded by following protocol, as required by federal law, to investigate any potential threat. We regret any less than positive experience a customer has on Southwest. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind,” continued the statement.