Clock Boy 2.0: Berkeley student removed from plane for speaking Arabic

There’s a ton of moral outrage bubbling up on cable news and social media over a story that, on the face of it, suggests a man was removed from a commercial airliner because he was speaking Arabic.

Just read how the Washington Post tells the story of Khairuldeen Makhzoomi in a way to stoke outrage from any reasonable American who would abhor the idea of an innocent person detained of his liberty because he spoke a language other than English.

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.

His sense of unease deepened. A thought occurred to him: I hope she’s not reporting me.

She had reported him and moments later, an Arabic-speaking employee of the airlines approached Makhzoomi and escorted him off the plane. According to Makhzoomi, the employee asked him, “Why would you speak in Arabic on the airplane?  It’s dangerous. You know the environment around the airport. You understand what’s going on in this country.”

As one can imagine, outrageous outrage from the usual suspects has ensued. CAIR is screaming “Islamaphobia” (whatever that means) and Makhzoomi, a refugee from Iraq and now a student and ultra-liberal University of California Berkeley, is popping up everywhere to tell his story.

Southwest has released a statement on the incident:

Prior to gate departure of Flight 4260, our Flight Crew decided to investigate potentially threatening comments made onboard our aircraft. Based upon the reported comments and further discussion, our Flight Crew made the decision to deny boarding to this Customer. We understand local law enforcement spoke with that Passenger at a later time. To respect the privacy of those involved, our policy is to not publicly share specifics of the event, as we try to work with individual passengers to address concerns or feedback regarding their experience. We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft.

Let’s be clear: If this person was removed from a plane only because he spoke in Arabic, it’s wrong. But, forgive my skepticism, but I’ve heard this song before and it sounds a lot like “Ahmed, the clock boy.”  You remember poor, put upon Ahmed, the victim of rampant, state-sponsored Islamaphobia, don’t you?

After sticking an all-ready existing clock apparatus into a metal briefcase style pencil box, Ahmed claimed he “invented a clock” and was shocked to find that school teachers and administrators thought it looked like a bomb. Even though any reasonable person would glance at the contraption and immediately think it was a bomb.

Ahmed became a cause célèbre and was held up by all kinds of political opportunists as an example of Islamaphobia run amok in our country. The media couldn’t get enough of Ahmed and bought the narrative without hesitation. It was only when cooler heads examined the facts at hand that it appeared there was much more to the Ahmed story than CAIR would have us believe.

So, forgive me if I don’t pile on the outrage and join every media minion intent on sanctimoniously intoning disappointment in our xenophobic society. I can predict the patented Carol Costello head-tilt with pursed lips challenging our country to rise above our racist DNA.

Carol Costello is disappointed in you, America.
Carol Costello is disappointed in you, America.


Wait until there’s more information and let’s see exactly what was involved with this incident, beyond what Makhzoomi and CAIR have relayed to the eager stenographers at the Washington Post.



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