Muslim-American Pizzeria Owner Detained From Boarding Plane Because Passengers Were Afraid

A Philly pizzeria owner and his friend were prevented from boarding a Southwest Airlines plane because passengers were nervous

Passengers asked him what was in the white box he was carrying, so he shared his baklava with them.

Two American men were detained from boarding a Southwest Airlines plane from Chicago to Philadelphia after a passenger heard them speaking Arabic and declared that he felt unsafe. At first, Maher Khalil, who owns a pizzeria in Philadelphia, and his friend, Anas Ayyad, who both moved to America from Palestine 15 years ago when they were teenagers, were apologetically told at the gate that they would be unable to board the plane.

"If that person doesn't feel safe, let them take the bus," Khalil said to a Southwest Airlines gate agent, according to NBC Philadelphia. "We're American citizens just like everybody else."

Khalil did not know what to do, so he called 911 and reported the incident of racial profiling. The flight was delayed while both passengers were questioned by airport security and police. Eventually they were allowed to board the plane to fly back home, and Southwest Airlines issued a statement acknowledging the brief incident.

“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," the airline's statement read.

Once aboard, many fellow passengers were supportive of the men’s plight, but a few questioned “what was that white box” in their hands, and demanded that they open it.


“So I shared my baklava with them,” Khalil said.