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Southwest Airlines Kicks Student Off Plane For Speaking Arabic

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Southwest Airlines removed a University of California, Berkeley student from a flight after another passenger overheard him speaking Arabic.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old refugee from Iraq, was flying from Los Angeles to Oakland earlier this month when he decided to call his uncle, reported The New York Times. He said he was excited to tell family about an event he’d attended where he got to ask the secretary-general of the United Nations a question.

A Southwest Airlines employee asked Makhzoomi why he was speaking Arabic and took him off of the plane, according to The Times. Then the FBI arrived.

Makhzoomi was searched and questioned by authorities about his family, the phone call, and about martyrdom, he told the Daily Californian.

southwest airlines
A Southwest Airlines jet waits on the tarmac at Denver International Airport on Jan. 22, 2014. (Photo: Rick Wilking/The Canadian Press)

“The humiliation made me so afraid,” Makhzoomi said.

In a statement to media, Southwest said it regrets “any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft” and that the airline “neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”

It’s not the first time the airline has been accused of racial profiling. Southwest already faced scrutiny this month for a similar incident.

Hakima Abdulle, a Muslim woman, was removed from their flight in Chicago after asking another passenger to switch seats.

“The humiliation made me so afraid.”

A flight attendant told police that Abdulle was removed because she did not “feel comfortable,” with her as a passenger, according to Independent. In response, the airline defended its actions and released a statement saying employees “followed proper procedures in response to this customer's actions.”

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has also recently surged because of the country’s election, one expert told the Daily Californian.

“Since 9/11, we’ve seen a steady increase in anti-Muslim bias and dissemination of fear about Muslims in the United States,” said Berkeley associate professor Charles Hirschkind. “That trend has really spiked during this current electoral season.”

Anti-Muslim crimes in Canada

In Canada, hate crimes against Muslims have more than doubled in a three-year period.

Last year, a Peterborough, Ont. mosque was set ablaze while another in Cold Lake, Alta. was vandalized with the words “Go home” on multiple occasions.

Politicians' racist rhetoric is likely a contributing factor, the National Council of Canadian Muslims told The Huffington Post Canada. “When Donald Trump says something in New York, seventh graders here hear about it,” said the council’s communications director Amira Elghawaby.

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