Man Claims He Was Almost Kicked Off Flight for Speaking Arabic

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PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) In this age of terrorism, all of us are told by the authorities, "If you see something, say something,” but what if you hear something? And what if it turns out to be innocent conversation in another language?

28-year-old Maher Khalil was back at the Feltonville pizza shop he owns Thursday night. Still shaken over  a family visit to Chicago that took a frightening turn.

"They say 'You cannot fly with us.  There is a passenger who doesn't feel safe,” Khalil told FOX 29.

Khalil, who is a U.S. citizen born in Palestine, says he was at Chicago's Midway airport Wednesday night with a friend both had visited family in the Windy City. They were sharing stories of their visit  in Arabic when they were stopped by a gate attendant as they tried to board Flight 6599 to Philadelphia, according to Khalil.

“One of the passengers didn't feel safe traveling with us because we spoke Arabic” said Khalil.   "I couldn't believe what I hear and I ask for a manager."

Khalil used his phone to record what followed, as Southwest employees discussed what to do, Khalil called police to defuse the situation. He was finally allowed to board the flight.

"After like 20 minutes of waiting, holding me, making me feel like I'm a terrorist in front of everyone in the airport-- passengers coming by , asking what's going on,” Khalil explained.

And when he and his friend walked through the plane to their seats.

"Everybody looked at us like we are terrorists-- give us that looks,” said Khalil.

Khalil was carrying a small white box as carry-on. Khalilsays he opened the box when a couple of passengers asked him what was inside. So what was inside the box? According to Khali, inside the box was sweets and pastries.

In a statement tonight, Southwest says Flight 6599 was delayed due to a “brief disagreement with two customers during the boarding process.” The statement goes on to say, “safety is our primary focus, and our employees are trained to make decisions to ensure that safety, and to safeguard the security of our crews and customers on every flight."