EDITORIAL: Assumptions lead to irrational fear
College student was kicked off plane after speaking in Arabic
People have places to go and places they need to be, and when those locations are far enough, people book flights. Exorbitantly expensive with little room for movement, airplane fights aren’t the most financially or physically comfortable mode of transportation. The hassle is compounded by having to go through long lines of immigration and customs enforcement and security checks.
Some people, however, go through the necessary steps of booking the flight, packing their items, getting to the airport, going through immigration customs and security checks and placing their luggage in plane compartments, only to be kicked off once they’re seated because of what they look like and what language they’re speaking. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi is a University of California, Berkeley, senior — and he was subjected to a demeaning situation after speaking to his uncle in Arabic on a plane and saying, “inshallah,” meaning “God willing.” His looks and his words were enough to prompt a nearby passenger to get employee assistance and get the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to kick him off the plane and harass him due to baseless assumptions.
As someone who is majoring in political science and Near Eastern studies, Makhzoomi must’ve had an understanding of the political climate in the United States, and the knowledge of heightened fear of Arabs and Muslims should’ve made him realize that a passenger might have become suspicious of him. It’s now common knowledge that profiling goes beyond the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and suspicion of Arabs and Muslims are constantly reported. Getting kicked off because you fit the stereotype of a certain group of people isn’t unique, and some may say he could've prevented this abhorrent incident if he spoke in Arabic after the flight. Makhzoomi could've gone where he needed to go without problems if he just acted "accordingly."
More importantly, however, Makhzoomi or anyone who fits the Muslim stereotype shouldn’t have to circumscribe their actions to appease other people. They’re paying the same hundreds and even thousands of dollars to get on this plane, so he and others deserve respect and decent service as anyone else does.
While non-Arabs and non-Muslims who come from different regions and religions can act freely, those who are Arabs and Muslims aren’t granted the same kind of freedom — they now offend people by their mere existence. And no matter how careful they are in trying not to incite fear in other people, some things cannot be changed and there are features and characteristics inextricable to their identity and who they are as a person. Even if Makhzoomi were to withhold speaking Arabic on the phone with his uncle, a woman with a hijab or someone who looks a certain way can’t change their skin tone or facial features.
Fear-mongering has reached a new level, and it has exacerbated differences between perception and reality. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Gun Violence Archive, 29 Americans have been killed in violent jihadist attacks on American soil and 132,349 have been killed in gun violence homicides. People are more likely to die from gun violence than terrorist attacks. Some may counter this argument by saying that this is only statistics on ground-level terrorism and doesn’t include terrorism on aircrafts, but then again the odds of being on a flight that’s subject to a terroristic incident has been 1 in 10,408,947, and by contrast the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000.
In worrying about safety, Americans have lost sight of what’s immediately dangerous and have subjected certain persons to unwarranted scrutiny. Innocent individuals are forced to undergo humiliating and demeaning checks, and it must be rectified by adequate education and training. TSA agents, as well as ordinary Americans, need to be informed of what’s more likely to kill them — and that’s lightning strikes, extreme sun exposure, car crashes, gun violence and drowning, rather than terrorism.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.