A man's flight was delayed because he was overheard speaking Arabic

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A Palestinian-American man was temporarily blocked from boarding his flight on Wednesday, ABC News and the Associated Press report.

The reason, Maher Khalil was told, was that another passenger on the Southwest flight from Chicago to Philadelphia had overheard him speaking in Arabic on his cell phone at the gate, which made that person feel "uncomfortable."


"If that person doesn't feel safe, let them take the bus," Khalil told NBC10 News Live. "We're American citizens just like everybody else."

Khalil, who emigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago and now owns a pizza shop in Philadelphia, and traveling companion Anas Ayyad were eventually allowed to board. But many of the other passengers remained suspicious of the pair, to the point that Khalil had to open up the white box he was carrying to show that it was just baklava.


Southwest Airlines confirmed to ABC that the plane departed Midway International Airport 10 minutes later than scheduled due to "a disagreement with two customers."

NBC10 points out that discriminatory situations similar to Khalil's have played out multiple times in the last week, which suggests that Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment might be on the rise following the Islamic State's coordinated attacks on Paris Nov. 13. For example, four people reportedly of "Middle Eastern descent" were removed from a Spirit Airlines flight on Tuesday.

"I swear, I never had that feeling before," Khalil told ABC. "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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