I am not surprised really. A young Iraqi man was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight after he spoke Arabic on his cell phone. He was talking to his uncle and describing an event earlier that week at which the head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, had appeared. In closing the phone call with his uncle, he had mentioned he would call him later insha’ Allah, a common Arabic phrase meaning “God willing.” He was telling his uncle he would call him later, God willing. He noticed as he hung up that a nearby woman was staring at him. He silently hoped he would not be detained for speaking Arabic. But, he was detained. Police officers arrived within two minutes and told him he had to leave the plane.
Southwest Airlines simply said they were apprised of threatening comments aboard the airline. After being removed, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, was approached by a Southwest employee who spoke Arabic. He spoke Arabic to the young man. But, the Southwest employee used words Mr. Makhzoomi did not understand. He asked the man to speak to him in English. The man fussed at the young man for speaking in Arabic, saying these are dangerous times. The FBI came. Assuming Mr. Makhzoomi was a terrorist, the agents tried to recruit him to give them names. They demanded to know about the “martyrs.” He said he never used that word. He only said insha’ Allah. Sigh. Every Arabic person I have ever known says insha’ Allah often. If that is the criteria for rooting out terrorists, then we will cast a very wide net, indeed.
In fact, being from Iraq and that he did not discuss his background in Iraq, that suggests he comes from a family of an interpreter. Many interpreters had to move to the U.S. because they were being targeted. Because they supported us during the war, the interpreters and their families also became targets. Once, they get here in the US, they still must remain quiet about their background to protect their families back home. So, it is very likely this young man had to leave Iraq because his family opposed terrorism. Yet, here in American, he is treated like the terrorists his family opposed. Given the nervous nature of my fellow citizens and the lack of familiarity with Moslems, I am not surprised at the lady’s reaction on the plane. But, the irony of where our fears take us is remarkable. See CNN news report.