Raed Banned from Plane for Wearing T-Shirt

An Iraqi man was denied the right to board an airplane because he was wearing a t-shirt with the words “We Will Not Be Silent.”

An Iraqi architect says he was not allowed to board a Jet Blue flight at JFK because of the Arabic inscription on his t-shirt.

REPORTER: Raed Jarrar was wearing a T-shirt that read We Will Not Be Silent in Arabic and English, when he was approached by security officers. The officers said the Arabic script was upsetting other passengers, and told Jarrar to either turn the shirt inside out or wear something else. Jarrar protested but finally wore a T-shirt provided by a Jet Blue employee.

JARRAR: I grew up and spent all my life living under authoritarian regimes. and i know that these things happen. But I’m shocked that they happened to me here, in the U.S. Especially that I moved from Iraq because of the war that was waged in Iraq under titles like democracy and freedom.

REPORTER: A spokesman for Jet Blue says the airline is investigating to see if the security officers were with the airline, the Transportation Security Administration or the Port Authority. He also said the airline does not forbid Arabic T-shirts, but that it does take into account the concerns of its passengers.

While one can understand passengers being somewhat nervous about t-shirts bearing defiant messages in Arabic, given the history of defiant Arabs and airplanes, this is certainly an overreaction.

via Jeralyn Merritt

UPDATE: Jim Henley speculates in the comments below that this is THE Raed Jarrar, of the long defunct Where is Raed? blog. He was an Iraqi architect, so it’s quite possible if not probable. The connection escaped me at first, because I knew him only as “Raed.”

UPDATE: Confirmation. This is actually a several day old story.

On a trip back from the Middle East, Iraqi blogger and activist Raed Jarrar was not allowed to board a flight at JFK airport because he was wearing a T-Shirt that said “We will not be silent” in English and Arabic. Airport security forced him to change his T-Shirt saying wearing it was like “going to a bank with a T-Shirt reading ‘I am a robber.'”

The link contains a transcript of a chat between Jarrar and Amy Goodman. Jarrar is now Iraqi Project Director for Global Exchange and runs the less high profile Raed in the Middle blog, where he posted an account of the incident on August 10th.

Post title changed to avoid burying the lede.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    I love how the magical power of “turning it inside out” makes it all better.

    I’m going to have to get me a shirt in arabic now.

  2. madmatt says:

    Yes because the terrorists are renting out their shirts for last minute ad dollars….rumor has it mohamad attas said “We had a Blast in New York” if only concerned passangers had said something!

  3. Michael says:

    While one can understand passengers being somewhat nervous about t-shirts bearing defiant messages in Arabic

    And how many of those passengers do you think could distinguish Arabic from Hebrew? It’s not that it was Arabic, it’s that it LOOKED Arabic, and he looked Arabic. We’re starting to developer an Arab-phobia(1) in America, especially when it comes to airlines.

    However, putting that aside, it seems the irony of the story was missed.

    Raed Jarrar was wearing a T-shirt that read We Will Not Be Silent in Arabic and English

    Evidently the shirt lied:

    Jarrar protested but finally wore a T-shirt provided by a Jet Blue employee.

    So much for conviction.

    (1) For those who would say we should be suspicious of Arabs on a plane (hmm, new movie?), I’ll remind you that a phobia is specifically an irrational fear associated with an irrational compulsion to avoid it.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    This is THE Raed Jarrar, from what I can tell. The name will be familiar to almost any old-school blogger.

  5. Jim Henley says:

    Adding some detail to James’ update, Raed inspired the title of Salam Pax’s prewar blog, but very rarely posted to it himself. His own blog, Raed in the Middle, postdates the overthrow of Saddam. I’m pretty sure his Mum, an Iraqi women’s rights activist, is or was blogging too.

  6. legion says:

    He also said the airline does not forbid Arabic T-shirts, but that it does take into account the concerns of its passengers.

    Good lord. If merely seeing something that looks like Arabic script “upsets” people to the point that they complain to the authorities, it’s “those people’s” problem, not the shirt-wearer’s or the airlines.

  7. Triumph says:

    An Iraqi architect says he was not allowed to board a Jet Blue flight at JFK because of the Arabic inscription on his t-shirt.

    An Iraqi has no business getting on a DOMESTIC airline flight.

  8. John Burgess says:

    Triumph: I hope that was just a failed attempt at sarcasm…

    Through the Saudi Jeans blog, I find a link to a very nice T-Shirt.

    It says, in Arabic, “I Am Not A Terrorist”. Available in black or white, and male/female variations. I can’t get one for my flights tomorrow, but for next month’s travel…

  9. D.C. Russell says:

    Having “security” people, who are often making up rules as they go along, stomp on our rights both scares and offends me. Do you suppose Jet Blue gives a damn about my concerns?

  10. John Burgess says:

    D.C.Russell: I dunno… why not call them and let them hear your concerns.

    I’m flying AirTran tomorrow and will let them know that I think there’s an awful lot of silliness going on and that I truly hope, as a preferred customer, that they don’t go all dumb shit and start throwing passengers off the plane because some other passenger got nervous.

    I figure if you’re too nervous to fly with a particular passenger load, you should fly with them: wait till the next flight.

  11. McGehee says:

    And how many of those passengers do you think could distinguish Arabic from Hebrew?

    You’re kidding, right?

  12. Trav says:

    What did he expect, 60 years ago he would be in a camp behind barb wire.

  13. Edmund Burke says:

    Perhaps we can convince Arabs to stop blowing up and/or hijacking commercial airplanes. I can not think, off the top of my head, of any other people group to perpetrate such an act with such regularity and effectiveness. So, should people be nervous in a plane full of Arabs? Perhaps. Is this Arab-a-phobia or simply using your innate ability to assess dangerous situations for self preservation? If a certain crime has been perpetrated by a criminal with a specific age, sex and nationality 100% of the time; using these characteristics to define a likely suspect for such a crime is not racist or a result of some sort of phobia, it is simply common sense. In this instance, I am not very concerned with a lone Arab in a “defiant” T-Shirt. I’m not sure what it means anyway. In his quote he complains about having to “live under a totalitarian regime all of his life and not expecting this type of treatment in America”. With this in mind it’s hard to believe he is so fervently against the removal of said dictatorship that he is buying t-shirts to express his opposition? Strange…

  14. Bob says:

    It is about time that Muslims be sensitive to my deeply held feeling and desire to remain alive. I am offended deeply by the aggressive, however moderate, pointed indications that they are entitled to act any way they want without reaction. I am not yet to the point of kidnapping and beheading Muslims or advocating such action because of their views but who knows what the future brings.

    If a Muslim is entitled to act out their beliefs then so should I! Want to get on a plane with a shirt that makes me think you are one of those moderate Muslims that drives SUVs on sidewalks then expect a reaction.

  15. Trav says:

    It would seem to me that someone with his experiences would understand the reaction his t-shirt would have. Seems to me he did it to create controversy to post on his blog.

    If there is no news, create some.

  16. Mike says:

    This kind of profiling is like telling an Irishman he cannot have a drink on a flight because he might get too rowdy, it’s like telling a sophisticated African-American he cannot purchase a handgun for home security because he’ll rob a liquor store, it’s like telling..

  17. Richard says:

    Its like scaring the crap out of all the hysterical, ignorant, nervous nellies so that the next round of civil/human rights abuses (for your own good..) are swallowed just as gullibly as the last.
    If you are going to commit egregious crimes overseas, you have to be able to control possible home grown dissent.
    For the home of freedom and democracy, America, you have a great deal of cleaning up at home to do.
    Suggest that you learn about the world a bit, Bob, find out just why the good ol US of A may not be the flavour of the century (contrary to PNAC..)
    The juxtaposition of OIL and WAR and MIDDLE EAST and ISRAEL and PALESTINE and HALLIBURTON and ETC, might give you some clues..
    Do you have a passport Bob? Have you actually travelled to see how people outside you town borders live??

  18. Titi says:

    Turn into a scientific experiment. Send various Middle eastern, Far eastern, African and Caucasian looking people on different flights with the same t-shirt, but with a different script on (Farsi, Urdu, Hebrew, Hindi, Arabic, Armenian, french, Greek and might as well add Japanese and Georgian). See how many get the “personalised VIP treatment” and from the result we should be able to distinguish whether it is the script, the looks of the wearer or both that triggers such fears amongst the on bound passengers leading to appropriate action by the airline company.
    Soon you should be able to oblige someone to hide their face under a brown paper bag, because their physical appearance is upsetting passengers.