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CAIR and Walkup, Melodia File Suit Challenging Southwest Airlines’ Removal of Arabic-Speaking Passenger

screenshot 2018.02.13 15 19 29(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 2/13/2018) — The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and the law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a traveler who was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in April 2016 after another passenger complained about his speaking Arabic on the phone.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, then a student at UC Berkeley, was on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport after an event at which he had the opportunity to hear UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. As he boarded the flight, he excitedly called his uncle to tell him about the event. Another passenger, overhearing him speaking in Arabic, reported him to Southwest Airlines staff. Makhzoomi was promptly removed from the aircraft, questioned by law enforcement and barred from returning to the flight.

SEE: Arabic-Speaking Student Kicked Off Southwest Flight

“Southwest Airlines removed Mr. Makhzoomi from a flight and turned him in to local and federal law enforcement for no reason other than his spoken language,” said Zahra Billoo, CAIR-SFBA executive director. “What Mr. Makhzoomi experienced is the essence of religious profiling, and every Muslim airline passenger’s worst nightmare.”

A copy of the complaint can be found at:

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

As one of the premier plaintiff trial firms in the United States, attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have successfully represented injured people in both state and federal courts. For nearly six decades, we have helped establish new law and proactively used litigation to compel corporations and public entities to respect the civil rights of all consumers.

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CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo, 626.252.0885,; Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, Partner Khaldoun A. Baghdadi, 415.981.7210,


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