A Philadelphia man was briefly stopped from boarding a flight from Chicago after another passenger overheard him speak in Arabic with a friend, which reportedly made him uncomfortable.
Pizza shop owner Maher Khalil emigrated from Palestine 15 years ago and said the incident upset and humiliated him, according to the Associated Press.
Before the incident on Wednesday at Midway International Airport, Khalil said he’s never experienced discrimination before.
“We came to America to have a better life,” Khalil said on Friday. “Everybody in America is from different countries. I’m one of them. I’m an American citizen.”
Khalil explained what happened saying he was just chatting with a friend while waiting to board a Southwest Airlines flight.
He said as he approached the gate, they were told they couldn’t board because another passenger felt uncomfortable.
“We were just chatting, like everybody else,” Khalil said. “I’m like: ‘Are you kidding me? Are you serious? Is this a prank or something?'”
Khalil called the police for assistance, but when they arrived on the scene, some passengers assumed the officers were responding to a terrorist threat.
Later, the two friends were allowed to board, according to the AP, but passengers became suspicious as he walked to his seat at the back of the plane while carrying a white box.
Passengers asked to see what was in the box.
Khalil opened the box then shared the baklava he’d bought with a few passengers.
“When we walked onto the airplane, I told my friend to smile so (other passengers) can think there’s nothing wrong,” Khalil said. “Everybody started giving us that look.”
“I swear, I never had that feeling before,” Khalil said. “I felt like we’re not safe no more in this country. Because I’m Arab, I cannot ride the airplane? The person who complained is the one who should be kicked out, not me.”
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You’re inadvertently doing their bidding, so to speak.
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