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Hullabaloo


Monday, April 18, 2016

 
Speaking the wrong language

by digby















Why is this ok?

A college student who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in California earlier this month after another passenger became alarmed when she heard him speaking Arabic.

The student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was taken off a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Oakland on April 6 after he called an uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he attended that included a 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,” he said.

He told his uncle about the chicken dinner they were served and the moment when he got to stand up and ask the secretary general a question about the Islamic State, he said. But the conversation seemed troubling to a nearby passenger, who told the crew she overheard him making “potentially threatening comments,” the airline said in a statement.

Mr. Makhzoomi, 26, knew something was wrong as soon as he finished his phone call and saw that a woman sitting in front of him had turned around in her seat to stare at him, he said. She headed for the airplane door soon after he told his uncle that he would call again when he landed, and qualified it with a common phrase in Arabic, “inshallah,” meaning “god willing.”

“That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ because it was so weird,” Mr. Makhzoomi said.

That is exactly what happened. An Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent came to his seat and escorted him off the plane a few minutes after his call ended, he said. The man introduced himself in Arabic and then switched to English to ask, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?”
[...]
Law enforcement officials arrived shortly after Mr. Makhzoomi accused the airline employee of anti-Muslim bias, he said. He was brought into the terminal and searched in front of a crowd of onlookers while half a dozen police officers, including one with a dog, stood watch.

Three agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived and brought him into a private room where they questioned him, he said. They asked about his mother, who lives with him and his younger brother in Oakland. They also asked about his father, Khalid Makhzoomi, a former Iraqi diplomat who was jailed in Abu Ghraib prison by Saddam Hussein and later killed by the dictator’s regime, according to Mr. Makhzoomi. His family came to the United States in 2010.

Mr. Makhzoomi said an F.B.I. agent told him the Southwest Airlines employee who was upset by the allegation of anti-Muslim bias said a passenger reported hearing him talk about martyrdom in Arabic, using a phrase often associated with jihadists. He denied the charge and was allowed to return to the terminal, he said, where the same Arabic-speaking employee refunded his ticket.

A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Los Angeles, Ari Dekofsky, confirmed that agents responded to the airport that day but had found there to be no threat. “We determined that no further action was necessary,” she said on Saturday.

Is there a rule posted anywhere that says speaking Arabic on airplanes is verboten? Apparently it is if some bozo who watches way too much Fox News thinks it is.

You have to assume that the man was screened due to his name before he got on the plane. TSA knew he was a middle eastern person. So the fact that he speaks Arabic is not relevant once they've screened him. This is indulging bigotry, nothing less.

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