Ragland: Southwest Airlines must apologize to student kicked off flight for speaking Arabic

This is what happens when we allow fear and xenophobia to get the best of us: A college student gets kicked off a commercial flight for speaking in a foreign tongue.

In case you missed it, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old student at the University of California-Berkeley, says he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight and drilled by the FBI for talking in Arabic.

He says his ordeal began when he called his uncle in Baghdad after boarding an April 6 flight from Los Angeles to Oakland. They talked about a dinner he’d attended the day before with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“I just called him and talked to him about it and everything, and he told me [to] call him when I get to Oakland, and I said ‘insha’Allah insha’Allah [God willing], I will call you when I arrive.’ And during the conversation, a lady was staring at me,” he said, according to CNN.

He said he initially thought the woman was concerned about how loud he was talking during the excited conversation with his uncle when he saw her hastily exit the plane.

But suddenly, he was accosted and booted from the flight. “One guy came with police officers within two minutes — I couldn’t believe how fast they were — and told me to get off the plane,” he said.

Makhzoomi calls what happened to him a blatant act of Islamophobia. And he’s now demanding an apology, which, quite frankly, the airline should’ve issued long ago.

Instead, Southwest Airlines has chosen to hide behind a carefully worded corporate PR statement that belies the gravity of what was done to this young man — and, by extension, others who look and sound like him.

Here’s the statement: “Prior to the departure of Flight 4620, our crew made the decision to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft,” Southwest said. “A group of our employees including the flight crew made the decision to review the situation. We understand local law enforcement also spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate.”

Then they added this poppycock: “To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not publicly share any further specifics of the event. We prefer to communicate directly with customers to address concerns and feedback regarding their travel experience.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Mahkzoomi wasn’t the least bit happy with his “travel experience.”

In fact, he’s made that loud and clear: “All I want is an apology today,” he said. “We as a people — Iraqi, American, Iranian — we share one thing in common, and that is our dignity. If someone tries to take that away from us, we should fight but not with aggression, with knowledge and education. One must stand for his principle.”

The reference to Iranian strikes close to home. It was just last November that Bobby Abtahi, a city of Dallas plan commissioner, got kicked off a Virgin America flight for nothing more than the way he looked. Abtahi is of Iranian descent and had spent a few days on the beach, apparently without his razor handy.

Once upon a time, this was a shared ideal in America. But now, in the face of global terrorism that landed on our shores on 9/11, we’re forfeiting our identity as a nation that safeguards individual liberties and freedoms.

We’re punitively judging people by the language they speak and the religion they practice, rather than the content of their character. We saw Irving school and city officials engage in the same knee-jerk overreaction with Ahmed Mohamed, a.k.a. as the “clock boy.” And once they realized they took it too far, they doubled down on their aggression by refusing to apologize to the boy.

Instead, they turned the episode into a cause celebre.

There are some wonderful people at Southwest Airlines. I’ve gotten to know quite a few of them over the years.

But this airline is losing its way if it can’t recognize the great harm is causing by remaining silent on this issue.

If what happened to Khairuldeen Makhzoomi is allowed to stand — without public apology and atonement — the terrorists have won.
It means they’ve reduced America to a land where — unless you speak perfect English and carry a Bible under your arms — you are justifiably suspicious.

If Southwest doesn’t clear the air, we all might as well cry uncle.
Source : yahoonews

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