Posts Tagged ‘Arabic language’

New Crime: Flying While Bilingual

April 19, 2016

New Crime: Flying While Bilingual

While his Southwest Airlines flight was at the gate at LAX two weeks ago, a college student called his uncle on his mobile phone and was promptly hauled off the plane. Why? He was speaking to his uncle in Arabic.

UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was on a flight to Oakland on April 6 when he called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he attended in LA. A frightened passenger spoke with flight attendants, and Mr. Makhzoomi was escorted off the plane to a public area in the terminal, where security officers searched him. FBI agents arrived, spoke with him, determined he was no threat, and let him fly back home on Delta.

Mr. Makhzoomi has lived in the US since 2010. He is the son of an Iraqi diplomat who was imprisoned and killed by Saddam Hussein. Imagine what he must make of this LAX experience. He is the sixth Arab American thrown off a flight at a US airport in the past four months. How many Islamophobes have been removed from planes? Zero.

1,700,000 Arab Americans — and the world’s 300 million Arabic speakers — just got a message: don’t fly Southwest.


“College Student Is Removed From Flight After Speaking Arabic on Plane,” Liam Stack, New York Times

“UC Berkeley student questioned, refused service after speaking Arabic on flight,” Maya Eliahou, Daily Californian

“Student who fled Saddam Hussein kicked off flight for speaking in Arabic,” Alix Culbertson, Daily Express

“UC Berkeley student removed from Southwest flight after speaking Arabic on plane,” Yanan Wang, Washington Post


“The unapologetic racial profiling of Muslims has become America’s new normal,” Haroon Moghul, Quartz


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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