Berkeley Student Removed From Plane After Speaking Arabic

Southwest_Air_LogoWe have another shocking case involving a passenger who was removed from a flight because his presence made other passengers nervous.
The student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was merely speaking in Arabic to his uncle in Iraq and recounting an exciting speech that he attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. After his call, he was told that he was making passengers nervous by speaking in Arabic and removed from the flight.

The 26-year-old college student is an Iraqi refugee and said that he noticed a woman glaring at him on the Southwest flight. The woman went to the flight crew and an Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee reportedly asked him “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?”

Southwest gave a non-answer to media inquiries, saying “we regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.” Well, if this account is true, it would seem like that is a tolerance of such discrimination if a single passenger can throw another passenger off the plane because she does not feel comfortable with a passenger speaking Arabic.

Worst yet, according to Makhzoomi, he was brought into the terminal and searched in front of a crowd of onlookers while half a dozen police officers, including one with a dog, stood watch. He was then interrogated into a room by three agents. He said that the passenger reported that he was speaking about martyrdom in Arabic, using a phrase often associated with jihadists. The FBI then cleared him to take another flight.

Obviously, it is unlikely that a real terrorist would chat away at the gate in Arabic about martyrdom as he waited to take off. Moreover, unless this woman spoke Arabic, it is not clear what word she believed is used by terrorists or her ability to make such a determination. Yet, she was able to have the student tossed from the flight.

My greatest concern is the lack of any cognizable or consistent standard in such cases. We have seen passengers refuse to allow a plane to take off while praying in the aisles without being removed from a flight. Yet, a call in Arabic seems enough if this account is accurate. There seems a legitimate question of equal treatment and due process for Muslim and Arab passengers in such cases.

What do you think?

50 thoughts on “Berkeley Student Removed From Plane After Speaking Arabic”

  1. I agree with Karen above. Since Nine Eleven we all need to be wary. People who fly on planes as passengers in America should be issued or denied flight licenses. If you are saying Allah Akbar on a phone on a plane then your license should be suspended. No more plane flights.

  2. Olly:

    I could be wrong, but the post made it sound that it wasn’t merely that she overheard him speaking in Arabic. She claims that he referenced martyrdom. More information needs to come out. I’ve assumed, and again could be wrong, that she thought she heard him say “Allahu akbar.” The airline literally could not ignore her claim.

    I wonder if we will ever find out if she was merely upset about him speaking Arabic, and made it up, or if she actually heard something. That’s certainly relevant to how we judge the whole affair.

  3. “we should be a lot more worried about cancer and heart disease than “jihadi” attacks

    Although fiver indicates that death from a jihadi terrorist in an airport should not be judged any differently than dying of prostate cancer, I find that view reprehensible.

    Fiver ignores the severe societal and moral components that differ between these deaths, something most people easily recognize.

    It would be the same to argue there is no distinction between rape and consensual intercourse because they both involve the same physical action.

  4. Paul Schultz,
    Not necessarily, some do this with the intent to upset pax and get thrown off.

    After that door closes, it’s the Captains decisions and everything converts to federal laws. If a pilot decides that a pax is disruptive or intentionally trying to cause UN-needed duress or stress to the majority of passengers, it’s his call.

    My husband and was a fighter pilot in the AirForce and then a Captain in one of the major airlines.

    He had this happen to him twice and both times, these people would go on his airplane, talk Arabic loudly, switch seats and just caused havoc. Pax’s were complaining to the flight attendants. As they were being removed, the entire plane of pax’s all stood up and clapped.

    My husband waited until the door was shut and then order them off ‘his plane’. The brass called him in and called him a xenophobic, so he invited them to come on his plane the next time it happened.

    They cause havoc on purpose and being on an airplane in a country that your country attacked, can be a rather sensitive thing.

    They brought this on their selves and political correctness is what their counting on, as a reason to sue. People in their country certainly don’t give the outsiders tha same consideration. If your country is our enemy, then you better behave.

    It happened again and he called the brass to come on his plane and they wouldn’t do it. So he told them until you are in his shoes, stop harassing him. They did. Then he kicked them off his plane again, as one put his pray rug down in the aft alley to pray and that’s just plain dumb.

  5. “…the billions upon billions upon billions we’ve wasted in the Global War on Terror?
    And why?”

    Fiver, war is a racket. There’s money to be made. USA spends eleven billion dollars each and every every week on war-monger related matters.
    Be so afraid.

  6. By your definition, people should be far more afraid of death by cancer and heart attacks and other natural causes than by murder and jihadi attacks on the West, because the natural death rate is 100%.

    I don’t believe I “defined” anything, but the point is valid: we should be a lot more worried about cancer and heart disease than “jihadi” attacks. I only chose lightning because it highlights just how trivial your “terrifying” numbers are when viewed in a worldwide context.

    But cancer and heart attacks put a much finer point on it. Ask any real doctor. Yet how much is spent on these very significant threats in comparison to the billions upon billions upon billions we’ve wasted in the Global War on Terror?

    And why?

    Because television has gotten very good at scaring the heck out of people, and frightened people are very easy to manipulate.

  7. KCFleming,

    In fiver’s world you would also not take any preventative measures if you knew there was a high probability of a lightening strike happening to you.

  8. Bam Bam,
    The story has plenty of details missing. For instance, was the entire flight deplaned and the luggage removed for reinspection? If not, why not? It would have taken “real” security to determine this student did not carry the means to carry out an attack on him, so what in the world was the justification to remove him from the flight?

  9. Olly

    There is no ban regarding Muslims on El Al. I think that you, along with others, are confused. The story is pretty simple, although most of the details have been purposefully eliminated. This story isn’t about someone merely speaking Arabic. Far from it. The reporting passenger didn’t alert the staff that she simply heard Arabic being spoken. This story is about a passenger overhearing a conversation, in Arabic, just as a plane is about to take off, where the reporting passenger believed that there were references being made to martyrdom and jihad. Do you know whether or not the reporting passenger was fluent in Arabic? Wouldn’t that little tidbit of info make a difference? We’ll never know, since information about this incident–other than what the Iraqi student claims–is hidden. Relevant details, such as that, are never released because maybe, just, maybe, there’s more to this story than just some prejudiced infidel? We’re just supposed to believe that there was some
    Nervous Nellie on the plane who overreacted. No mention that the FBI, who interrogated him after this episode, didn’t allow him to immediately continue on with his flying schedule. Yeah. That’s because the FBI is also a hysterical woman, on a plane, with some unfounded beliefs. That part is, naturally, left out. The student was finally allowed to continue with his travel plans the next day. I wonder why?

  10. I think Nick’s sense of smell is not working very well today.

    A very unfortunate incident. I can understand a passenger going to the airline if they thought they heard someone say “bomb”. But merely speaking Arabic is not a reason for complaining to the airline or detention by the airline. Otherwise we would ask all passengers if they speak Arabic as they go through security at the airport and then detain all Arabic speakers for questioning. (It appears that some posters here would detain and question all Arabic speaking people at the airport if they could. Wouldn’t it be easier just to tattoo an “A” on their forehead and create a separate security line for them?)

  11. “So, sure, be terrified of the “Jihad.” It’s almost half as likely as lightning to kill you

    1. We don’t invite lightning to our airports or on our flights with us.
    2. By your definition, women shouldn’t be concerned about rape because they don’t usually die of it, where a lightning strike can kill you.
    3. By your definition, people should be far more afraid of death by cancer and heart attacks and other natural causes than by murder and jihadi attacks on the West, because the natural death rate is 100%.
    4. For some strange reason, people view the intentional infliction of pain and death as different than that caused by natural phenomenon.

    For some strange reason, you seem to think all deaths are equivalent, regardless of whether they are by a murder or a tree falling on you.
    And you seem unaware that most humans view these as categorically separate events.

    These traits are of course common among amoral leftists, where they see nothing wrong with “breaking a few eggs to make an omelette,” where humans are viewed as nothing more than objects to be moved about, like a bottlecap or a piece of lint.


  12. This story has me wondering if El Al bans Muslims on their flights? If they didn’t, I would expect they speak Arabic.

    So are the fears warranted because terrorists exist, or are the fears warranted because there is NO CONFIDENCE in our governments ability to provide security?

  13. Golly, that “Jihad Report” sure sounds terrifying. But other things are much scarier.

    Take lightning, for example. Lightning has been estimated to kill 24,000 and injure 240,000 annually worldwide. After easy arithmetic: 2,000 killed and 20,000 injured per 30 days.

    So, sure, be terrified of the “Jihad.” It’s almost half as likely as lightning to kill you and over one twentieth as likely to injure you.

    Tremble on.

  14. Yeah, what a chicken she is.
    We have nothing to fear but fear itself, amiright?

    Jihad Report Last 30 Days
    Attacks 115
    Killed 831
    Injured 1447
    Suicide Blasts 33
    Countries 19

  15. “Land of the Free; Home of the Brave”?


    It’s not as if we haven’t had these fearful, trembling, bigots among us before, but seldom have they been so loud and, indeed, so proud of their cowardice. I suppose it’s predictable that the most fearful would always be the strongest and most easily manipulated backers of any war on terror, but this has gotten just plain embarrassing.

    Fear. It’s patriotism for the new millennium.

  16. This smells like a setup. Speaking excitedly, looking agitated, a Berkley student. He was looking for publicity and $’s.

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