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Makhzoomi had just settled into his seat on a Southwest Airlines flight when he pulled out his phone to call his uncle in Baghdad. His uncle is a political analyst, so Makhzoomi wanted to discuss the previous 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.
Except, Makhzoomi is now certain, that is precisely what happened. Shortly after the woman's departure, a Southwest employee informed Makhzoomi: "Sir, you need to step out of the plane right now."
Makhzoomi was then led off the plane to a hallway by the boarding gate, where three police officers were awaiting him. He said the Southwest employee appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and began speaking to him in Arabic. The employee told him he used to live in Dubai, and asked him where he was from. At Makhzoomi's urging, the employee switched back to English.
"Why would you speak in Arabic on the airplane?" the employee asked him. "It's dangerous. You know the environment around the airport. You understand what's going on in this country."
The FBI agents took him into a separate room and began the questioning anew.
"Okay, you need to be honest with me," Makhzoomi recalled one agent saying to him. "Tell us everything you know about martyrdom."
Makhzoomi was stunned. "I looked at her and opened my eyes very wide," he told The Post. "I told her I never mentioned this word, ever. You can call my uncle - I have never mentioned that word. It's associated with jihad and terrorism, and gives a false image of Islam."
Southwest declined to provide details about the incident but said in a written statement that the airline doesn't tolerate discrimination.
"Prior to the departure of Flight 4620, our crew made the decision to investigate a report of potentially threatening comments overheard onboard our aircraft. A group of our employees including the flight crew made the decision to review the situation. We understand local law enforcement also spoke with that passenger as the aircraft departed the gate,"