If America is supposed to be the beacon of freedom and human rights in the world, Americans have a very strange and dangerous way of showing it.
On April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland, get to campus and go to class. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.
Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Iraqi refugee, left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His family fled to Jordan, where they lived until the United States granted his family asylum. Today, Makhzoomi helps his mother care for his younger brother, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
One day prior to the incident, Makhzoomi attended a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.
On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”
When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.
“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”
Minutes later, an airport employee arrived to remove Makhzoomi from the airplane. Makhzoomi was escorted onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was met by three security officers.
He learned that the passenger thought she had heard the word “Shahid,” meaning martyr, which is associated with jihad and has been associated with terrorists.
The conversation between Makhzoomi and the employee became complicated and political. The employee informed Makhzoomi that he was not allowed to return to the plane.
Then Makhzoomi heard one of the security officers radio for the FBI.
We have gotten so freaking paranoid about anything that might be “furrin” or different that something as simple as a standard hang-up phrase in another language on the phone is a threat.
I blame the butch tough-guy talk from the wingnuts who are so full of false bravado but won’t let us move the last remaining corpses from Gitmo to the same supermax prison that’s holding the rest of the September 11 perps because they might look funny at someone. They’ll talk about carpet bombing and then trash their shorts if the ghost of Osama bin Laden says boogedy-boogedy.
Forget about dirty bombs and shooting up nightclubs. I truly believe that if ISIS really wants to conquer America, all they have to do is get a bunch of people to recite “Jabberwocky” in Arabic on the subway and the nation would grind to a halt.