Khairuldeen Makhzoomi is a college student and an Iraqi refugee who arrived in the U.S. in 2010. Today, he is demanding a public apology because he was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after mentioning a terrorist group’s name during a phone conversation in Arabic.
The Associated Press is reporting that Makhzoomi was removed from the April 9 flight from Los Angeles to Oakland, California, after the airline said another Arabic-speaking passenger reported hearing him say something that alarmed her.
The airline said in a statement that under federal regulations it had no alternative but to remove Makhzoomi.
He was eventually released after being interrogated by Los Angeles International Airport police and FBI agents.
The 26-year-old University of California, Berkeley, senior said his troubles began as he was excitedly telling his uncle in Baghdad that he was on his way home after attending a speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
He said most of the conversation was mundane, covering subjects like who was there and what the food was like, but at one point he noted someone posed a question about the Islamic State group.
When he noticed a woman in the next row staring at him he told his uncle he’d call back later, adding he ended the conversation with the phrase “inshallah,” meaning “God willing.”
Two minutes later, he said, a Southwest employee approached and told him he’d have to leave the plane.
Meanwhile, Makhzoomi said he’s been contacted by people who have offered to put him in touch with top-notch lawyers if he wants to sue. Still, he said, all he really wants is the apology.
“I hope I can get that apology because we need to solve this problem,” he said. “But we cannot solve any problem without mentioning what is the problem and that is that Islamophobia is real and it’s been used by many people and it’s time to say enough is enough.”
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