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Arabic speaker told to leave US plane

Southwest planes

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Mr Makhzoomi said he was speaking in Arabic with his uncle about attending a speech

An Iraqi university student in California says he was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight for having a conversation in Arabic.

Southwest Airlines said that Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from a 9 April flight before it took off.

Mr Makhzoomi said he was talking to his uncle on the phone about attending a speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

A Southwest employee then escorted him off of the plane.

“I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” Mr Makhzoomi told the New York Times.

A woman on the plane began staring at him after he used the phrase “inshallah,” meaning “god willing,” in the conversation, he said.

After an Arabic-speaking Southwest employee escorted him off the plane, he said “This is what Islamophobia got this country into.”

Mr Makhzoomi, who came to the country as an Iraqi refugee and studies at the University of California at Berkeley, was then told he could not get back on the plane.

“My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had,” he told the New York Times.

“Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologised, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”

Southwest said in its statement that he was removed for “potentially threatening comments made aboard our aircraft” and that it does not tolerate discrimination.

“We wouldn’t remove passengers from flights without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures,” the company said. “We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft.”

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