A UC Berkeley student says he was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month after speaking Arabic on board.
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, was taken off a flight to Oakland at the Los Angeles International Airport for questioning after he called his uncle in Baghdad, according to The New York Times.
Makhzoomi told his uncle about an event he attended that included a speech by United National Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. A passenger became alarmed about “potentially threatening comments” as she overheard the conversation, according to The Times.
The woman sitting in front of him began staring at him. “That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ ” Makhzoomi told The Times.
Makhzoomi, was taken off the flight for questioning and the plane took off during that time, Southwest Airlines said in a statement according to The Associated Press. The airline said it has not received a direct complaint from Makhzoomi. They also said he has not responded to several attempts to reach him.
“We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft,” according to the statement. “Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”
The FBI in Los Angeles said in a statement that it investigated the situation by request and found no further action was necessary.
Makhzoomi told The Times his father was an Iraqi diplomat who was jailed and later killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His family came to the U.S. in 2010.
Makhzoomi was able to get another flight on Delta Air Lines and got to Oakland eight hours later than he had planned.
“Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money,” Makhzoomi told The Times. “If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”