Makhzoomi had just settled into his seat on a Southwest Airlines flight when he pulled out his cellphone to call his uncle in Baghdad. His uncle is a political analyst, so Makhzoomi wanted to discuss last night’s event with him.

He was speaking into the phone in Arabic when he noticed that the woman in the seat in front of him was turned with her neck craned in his direction, staring.

Feeling discomfited, Makhzoomi cut his conversation short. “Inshallah,” he told his uncle, using a customary Arabic phrase meaning “God willing.” “I’ll call you when I land.”

After Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed that the woman had left her seat and was making her way up the aisle, weaving around passengers who were still boarding.