An Iraq-born University of California-Berkeley student has claimed he was told to leave a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month after another passenger overheard him speaking Arabic.
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, says he was waiting for his flight to Oakland to take off from Los Angeles International Airport April 6 when he called his uncle, who lives in Baghdad. Makhzoomi, said that he was calling his uncle before the flight to tell him about a speech he had attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Makhzoomi told his uncle about asking a question on the ISIS terror group at the event. He said he used the phrase "inshallah," meaning "god willing," at the end of the conversation, and those things might have led to suspicion.
He said the woman sitting in front of him on the plane began staring at him. "That is when I thought, 'Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,' " Makhzoomi said.
Makhzoomi said an Arabic-speaking Southwest employee came and escorted him off the plane and asked him why he had been speaking Arabic.
Makhzoomi said he told the employee "This is what Islamophobia got this country into." Makhzoomi said that made the man angry and that was when he was told he could not get back on the plane.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement Sunday that Makhzoomi, was taken off the flight for questioning and the plane took off while that was happening. But the airline said it has not received a direct complaint from Makhzoomi, and he has not responded to several attempts to reach him.
"We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft,” the statement read in part. “Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind."
The Daily Californian reported that Makhzoomi's family left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The FBI in Los Angeles said in a statement that it investigated the situation by request and found no further action was necessary.
Makhzoomi said he was able to get book a flight on another airline and got home eight hours later than planned.
"My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had," he told The New York Times. "Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.