Southwest Airlines is in hot water with the social media jury.
Back in April, A Muslim man was told to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger overheard him speaking in Arabic on his cell phone.
Once 26-year-old Berkeley graduate Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was seated on the plane bound for Oakland at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), he made a quick call to his uncle in Baghdad. He wanted to tell him about his opportunity to pose a question to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon at a dinner the night before.
At the end of the conversation, he said the common Islamic phrase “inshallah,” which means “God willing.”
He noticed a woman staring at him uneasily as he hung up the phone but thought she may have been annoyed at how loud he was speaking.
But that wasn’t the case.
“One guy came with police officers within two minutes — I can’t believe how fast they were — and told me to get off the plane,” he told CNN.
An agent escorted him outside and asked him why he was speaking in Arabic considering “today’s political climate.”
“You need to be very honest with us with what you said about the martyrs. Tell us everything you know about the martyrs,” the agent said to him.
Makhzoomi tried to explain that he had only said “God willing,” but the dogs were brought in to sniff his luggage and he was forced to hand over his wallet.
He was forbidden from re-boarding the plane, but was given a full refund by Southwest Airlines and booked another flight with Delta.
As for Southwest Airlines, spokeswoman Brandy King said in a statement that staff had decided to investigate “potentially threatening comments” made by the passenger, saying the staff members were acting according to protocol.
“Since that time, we have researched the event internally and also reached out to the customer,” she said.
“The internal review determined that it was the content of the conversation, not the language used, that prompted the report leading to the investigation. Our crew responded by following protocol, as required by federal law, to investigate any potential threat. We regret any less than positive experience a customer has on Southwest. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind,” said King.
But they apparently don’t care enough to apologize, as they have not done since the April 6 incident occurred.
Makhzoomi – who came to the United States as a legal refugee in 2010 with his sister – has called for them to do so, calling the situation a blatant case of discrimination.
In the meantime, the council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings against Southwest Airlines for “racial and religious profiling of a Muslim passenger.”
“We don’t want this to become ‘normal’,” said Saba Maher, civil rights coordinator of the local CAIR chapter, according to The Independent. “We are looking for a federal investigation and for the Department of Transportation to hold Southwest Airlines accountable.”