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Man Says He Was Removed From US Plane for Speaking Arabic

FILE - Southwest Airlines are seen parked at a gate in Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.
FILE - Southwest Airlines are seen parked at a gate in Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.

A California student who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee says he was unfairly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month because he was speaking Arabic.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, said he was removed from the flight at Los Angeles International Airport after a fellow passenger raised concerns as Makhzoomi spoke in Arabic in a phone call with his uncle.

Makhzoomi attends the University of California, Berkeley. He said he was calling his uncle to tell him about attending a recent speech by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it,'' Makhzoomi told The New York Times.

Makhzoomi said he thinks a passenger may have heard him say “inshalla,” which means God willing.

He said an Arabic-speaking employee escorted him off the plane. Makhzoomi reportedly stated, “This is what Islamophobia got this country into.”

Southwest said it had not talked to Makhzoomi, but in a statement said it regrets any less than positive experience by a customer.

Southwest added that it "neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind."

After the incident, Makhzoomi was able to catch a flight on another airline, arriving home in Oakland 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 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."

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