Berkeley Student Kicked Off Flight After He's Heard Speaking Arabic
A UC Berkeley student and son of a slain Iraqi diplomat was recently escorted off a flight after speaking on the phone in Arabic prior to takeoff.
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a student of Near Eastern Studies at the selective university, was en route back to Oakland from Los Angeles where he'd attended an event that featured Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he called an uncle in Baghdad to discuss the event.
The conversation was conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi told the Daily Californian. When he hung up, he said he noticed a woman staring at him.
As the aircraft sat at the gate, the woman got out of her seat, at which point the 26-year-old student realized she may have been reporting him to flight staff.
Shortly thereafter, he said he was pulled off the plane. At the gate, Makhzoomi was met by security officers, police dogs and Southwest staff.
"I was pulled out from the plane," Makhzoomi posted to Facebook. "Someone reported me and waiting for the FBI approval. #America"
The FBI arrived after his bag and person were searched. They questioned Makhzoomi about his family, the phone conversation with his uncle in Baghdad, and about what he knew about martyrism.
After the interrogation, Makhzoomi said he was informed Southwest would not fly him home and he was given a refund.
"I'm blacklisted on southwest," Makhzoomi wrote on Facebook.
In a statement obtained by InsideEdition.com, Southwest Airlines said their flight crew chose to investigate "potentially threatening comments" made onboard the plane.
"Based upon the reported comments and further discussion, our Flight Crew made the decision to deny boarding to this Customer.
"We understand local law enforcement spoke with that Passenger at a later time. To respect the privacy of those involved, our policy is to not publicly share specifics of the event, as we try to work with individual passengers to address concerns or feedback regarding their experience. We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft."
Makhzoomi, who said he's been a loyal Southwest customer for years and has flown the carrier some two dozen times in the past year or so, now wants an apology.
“I don’t want money,” he told SFGate.com. “I don’t care about that. The message of Islam is forgiveness. That’s all I want.”
Makhzoomi is an Iraqi refugee who left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
His family has since been granted asylum by the United States.