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Man Removed From Southwest Flight for Speaking Language Other Than English

There is a fine line between using common sense to ascertain a given situation’s potential danger, and letting reactionary and emotional impulse overrule the logic needed to make a fair and balanced decision. That line can become blurred when one’s own personal feelings rise up to overshadow the legalities of a specific situation. This is an occurrence that is becoming common place in this country, especially in the current hotbed of racial tension that is continuing to build around the presidential election. These are emotional decisions that stem from preconceived ideas and prejudice, and are actions that cannot be condoned by civilized society. It stands in defiance of everything this country once stood for: acceptance.

This applies two-fold for those is official positions. Whether that be a police officer, a politician or a member of the TSA, those in positions of authority are charged with the responsibility of casting aside their personal feelings, opinions and bias, in order to simply enforce the law; or so implies this nation’s beloved blindfolded Lady Justice. When one in a position of legal and administrative power decides to use their authority to enforce a decision based purely on emotion or personal feelings, the entire hierarchy is dissolved and they cease to be an authoritative figure, and instead morph into some sort of anti-hero vigilante. This was the case for one university student attempting to fly home aboard a Southwest Airlines flight.

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s call the student John from Italy. John, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was patiently awaiting take-off and decided to call his Uncle to inform him of an amazing speech by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which he had attended.

“I was very excited about the event, so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” the 26-year-old told The New York Times.

John discussed the speech with his Uncle in his native Italian tongue, and drew the attention of the lady sitting directly in front of him. She began to stare at him and John began to feel uncomfortable. The lady, finding discomfort in his phone call, had disclosed her feelings of prejudice with the flight attendant. Shortly after his conversation came to an end, John was approached by an Italian-speaking employee who then abruptly escorted him from the plane and asked him why he had been speaking Italian. John was not allowed to re-board the plane based solely on his phone call. The 26-year-old was released following questioning, and was able to book a flight on another airline, no apologies given, no explanation offered. He arrived home, uneventfully, eight hours later than planned.

Now this is quite obviously an action based entirely on fear and personal prejudice, having no basis in the law whatsoever. Simply speaking another language does not give a flight attendant the right to remove a person from a plane for which they had purchased a ticket, right?

Hypothetically speaking, what if Italians were known for their wild terrorist antics, Italian being their spoken language, would that then give the airline the right to remove John, for fear that he might be a terrorist? The answer is still no. Judging a person purely based on their ethnicity, language or skin color is quite literally the definition of racism and is not sound legal ground to remove a person from anything, especially a flight for which he had already paid.

As many of you have surely figured out at this point, John is a fictitious character, yet sadly this story is one based in reality. The real man’s name is Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, and he is a university student who came to the US as an Iraqi refugee, and the language he was speaking was Arabic. The lady in front of him had become irrational at the sound of a language she had been taught to fear, and even hate. Not because he was breaking any law, or acting in a manner that suggested some violent end, but due to his race. The flight attendant who escorted him off the plane had been one who spoke Arabic as well, and proceeded to ask him why he was speaking Arabic on the plane. Makhzoomi responded by saying,

“This is what Islamophobia got this country into.”

Which for some reason caused the Southwest employee to reportedly become angry, causing his decision to be even more clearly based in emotion, as opposed to the law, which is supposed to dictate the situation. The employee, being an Arabic speaker himself, still proceeded to judge and restrict his rights solely based on race.

Many of you reading this immediately shifted from outrage to understanding once it was revealed that the man was Iraqi instead of Italian, yet fundamentally, there is no difference under the law. This should highlight for everyone the embedded intolerance that has been subtlety overtly spread throughout this nation. Even when taking into consideration the massive propaganda campaign that Americans have been subjected to in order to instill fear of the American-made ISIS boogeymen, a young man calmly speaking another language on a plane is not enough to remove him, despite the hate and fear that we have been conditioned to feel when confronted with any Middle East concept.

“My family and I have been through a lot, and this is just another one of the experiences I have had,” Makhzoomi said.“Human dignity is the most valuable thing in the world, not money. If they apologized, maybe it would teach them to treat people equally.”

The reality is that while the threat of a terrorist attack is a genuine threat, the actual numbers show a very different picture than the scare tactics being pushed by the establishment.

“Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – the equivalent of “a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day.” Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has observed that “[e]ven in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never [comes] close to the number of traffic deaths.”” – Washington Post

The intention is not to belittle the idea of a terrorist attack or those affected by the fallout, but to illustrate how the media can manipulate the perception of the populace in order to achieve a specific end. Whether that be the invasion of another country for their resources or the implementation of a coup and the implantation of a puppet leader, all falls under the umbrella of “fear the Middle East.” By instilling the type of fear and intolerance that is being seen even amongst fellow Americans, every action taken abroad, no matter how historically anti-American they may be, is justified by that fear.


Ryan Cristián
"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see." - John Lennon Driven by a desire for accuracy, chef and independent news stalwart Ryan Cristián has a passion for the Truth. As a recent recipient of the Serena Shim Award For Uncompromising Integrity In Journalism, he understands that Americans want their news to be transparent, devoid of the opulence frothed out by today's corporate media. A cultured and insightful man with a worldly sense, Ryan's unjaded approach offers common sense to the individual racked by the ambiguous news cycle - a vicious and manipulative merry-go-round that keeps trenchant minds at a manageable distance from the truth. Avid writer & editor by day, Truth seeker by night, Ryan's reality defines what it means to be current.

One Reply to “Man Removed From Southwest Flight for Speaking Language Other Than English

  1. Yes, that Khairuldeen was escorted off the plane was definitely Not A Good Thing. Yes, rule of law applies. Yes, genuine, if incomplete, communication did happen. Not always the case with other confrontations. Police and demonstrators come to mind. I think there’s more going on here than Islamophobia. Yup, plenty of that. What’s *really* going on is what you called acceptance and I think can as easily be called the definition of the commons. Like it or not, airlines are MAJORLY twitchy about things Arabic. To provoke — that’s the word I want to use — to provoke fear is a really, really, really stupid thing to do. Do not eat Skittles and wear a hoodie. Do not decide to pray (in Arabic) with your five fellow imams while on the plane. (They got “escorted” off, too.) I think there was one about explosives in tennis shoes, London to NYC, but that guy was more fruitcake than malevolent. Fear doesn’t care about fair, rule of law, common sense, or probabalistic occurance, etc., etc. Just ask Rodney King. The “solution” (OK, the “treat the symptoms”) is as simple as it is distasteful as it is wise. Don’t trigger reactions that — hello? Khairuldeen? — you know will come from ignorance. Your bottom line is, “It ain’t fair.” You got that right. Everyone else’s bottom line is, “[expletive] a bunch of simple human courtesy. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO BE WRONG.” I’m not saying that limbic reaction is fair, nor that shoot first and ask questions later is, nor that better safe than sorry is. The commons is not about agreeing anyway. The commons is about feeling safe. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowd is a really bad idea. Whether or not there is a fire doesn’t matter. Speaking Arabic on a crowded plane is also bad. Whether or not there is any intent whatever (other than thoughtlessness) doesn’t matter. Yes, he *should* be able to do that. And Congress should be able to pass legislation, and taxes shoud be fair, and the city should fix pot holes today, not next month.

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