During the First Crusade, the Christian military had a particular battle cry: Deus vult, pronounced /’de.us ‘wult/ in Classical Latin. Romance language speakers will recognize the verb vult ~ volo better as volere or vouloir in Italian and French, and French also has a noun form: volition, which means “volition.”
Translated, this phrase means “God willing” or “God wills it.” And for one college student who dared to utter the phrase in Arabic instead of Latin, it wound up getting them in a whole bunch of trouble.
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, age 26, who fled Iraq in 2002 after the murder of his father under Saddam Hussein’s regime, was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight and then questioned by the FBI after another passenger reported him for the horrible crime of daring to speak Arabic.
Makhzoomi was reportedly flying home from a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, when he stopped to give his uncle a call. The conversation was conducted in Arabic, and before he hung up, Makhzoomi said “in šāʾa llāh” common transliterated “inshallah,” which translates to the English “God willing.”
After Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed one of the female passengers was staring at him. The woman then got up and left her seat.
“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he explained. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Moments later, an airline employee asked Makhzoomi to leave the plane, and when he did, he was greeted by three security officers who proceeded to interrogate him.
Makhzoomi was told the woman thought he said “šahīd,” meaning martyr — a term that’s been linked to Islamic terrorists.
How one mistakes the phrase “in šāʾa llāh” for the word “šahīd” boggles my mind, as a person who speaks just enough Arabic to be dangerous. In part because they sound so different, and in part because šahīd is a Sikh term as well as an Muslim one.
So if it sounds like a textbook case of Islamophobia, that’s because it is. Still, Makzhoomi was told that he wouldn’t be able to get back onto the plane, and overheard one of the security officers speaking with the FBI.
“At that moment I couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “I was so afraid. I was so scared.”
He was given a pat down, and the Makzhoomi reported that one officer publicly felt around his genital area and asked if he was hiding a knife.
That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water. The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father. When I got home, I just slept for a few days.
The FBI then arrived and questioned him about his family, about his phone call, and his knowledge about martyrism.
After the interrogation, the FBI informed him that he wouldn’t be allowed to fly home using Southwest Airlines, and so he was forced to book a flight on another airline, and arrived a full nine hours later than expected.
A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said Makhzoomi was removed because the crew decided to “investigate potentially threatening comments made onboard our aircraft.”
Makhzoomi is now asking for an apology.
All I need is an apology to say, ‘We are sorry we singled you out because [of] one person who felt threatened.’
And all it took was one ignorant person who can’t tell the difference between “insolent” and “salute,” since that’s roughly the distance between “inshallah” and “shaheed.”
Watch the video below:
Feature image via Facebook