Have you heard the one about the university student thrown off a flight for saying “God willing”?
Sorry, this isn’t a joke and there isn’t a punch line. Unless you count this: our country is now so Islamophobic that saying “Insha’Allah” (God willing) in a private phone conversation can a) make one’s fellow passengers so nervous that they b) call the flight attendants who c) escort you from the plane for interrogation by the FBI.
This is what happened to 26 year-old Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, an Iraqi who had refugeed to the U.S., on a Southwest flight last week. According to Al Jazeera English,
Makhzoomi said he was excited after attending a conference that included a speech by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, so as soon as he got on the plane, he made the call to talk about him.
“I was speaking Arabic with him. Explaining the details about the event,” Makhzoomi told Al Jazeera. “All of a sudden a lady in front of me started staring at me and I got off the phone. My uncle told me to call him when I land and I said, ‘inshallah, inshallah, I will call you’.”
He told the Associated Press news agency that most of the conversation was mundane, covering subjects like who was there and what the food was like, but at one point he said someone had asked Ban about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
A woman sitting nearby reported him to Southwest staff and he was escorted from the plane.
According to CNN, after his questioning ordeal, Southwest gave Makhzoomi a refund, and he flew back home to Atlanta on Delta. Once recovered from the shock and humiliation, he contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Since then the story has taken off. But in all the articles I’ve read, the chief question seems to be, “Is keeping your mouth shut in public the new normal for Muslims?”
Insha’Allah, it is not. Because, insha’Allah, there is something we non-Muslims can do to register our refusal to play along with this new brand of racist xenophobia: we can start speaking Arabic ourselves.
My suggestion: every time you want to say, “hopefully,” or “I plan to,” every time you feel the urge to knock on wood, slip an “insha’Allah” in there. You don’t need to be Muslim, or Christian to say it…in fact, I don’t think you really need to be particularly religious at all. If what you really mean is, “I sure hope whatever powers out there that are larger than I am will heed my humble wish,” then–yeah. In my book, “insha’Allah” covers that pretty well.
Might some Muslims argue with me about this? Probably. Some Christians too, I expect. But, insha’Allah, the more my suggestion gets put into use, the fewer Americans will be demonized by their fellow citizens.