"But I'm shocked that they happened to me here, in the US."
These were the words of Mr. Raed Jarrar, an architect, who wasn't allowed to board a JetBlue airliner in New York. Just because of his T-shirt!
If fact, he wasn't allowed to board until he got another T-shirt to wear.
And he's gonna sue!
That's not really so shocking, come to think about it.
On the surface, this looks like a clear case of racism, islamophobia, or something scary like that. Mr. Jarrar grew up in Iraq, moving to to the United States in 2005. The T-shirt he was wearing was black, with the words "We Will Not Be Silent" written on it in white.
These days, "We Will Not Be Silent" is a slogan used by people against the war in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East. The BBC article on Mr. Jarrar's troubles says that the phrase comes from the White Rose dissident group in Nazi Germany. "Resistance group" might be a better term, but "dissident" is the more groovily relevant term these days. That's another topic.
The Curious Affair of the Architect's Shirt started August 12, 2007.
"We Will Not Be Silent" was boldly proclaimed on Mr. Jarrar's shirt in Arabic, and, in much smaller lettering, in English.
The black-shirted Iraqi-American boarded the flight "days after British law enforcement officials announced they had disrupted a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights," the New York Sun pointed out.
I wouldn't have chosen that day to wear a black T-shirt with Arabic writing in big, bold, white lettering.
Mr Jarrar said that the T-Shirt slogan was protected by his "constitutional rights to free expression."
He finally consented wear another T-shirt, another T-shirt, purchased for him by a JetBlue employee at the airport gift shop. At least, that's what the Mr. Jarrar's complaint says.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has gotten involved with Mr. Jarrar's lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over the T-shirt affair. This should be interesting.
If Mr. Jarrar's lawyer decides to play Mr. Jarrar as an a-political architect whose just happened to wear a T-shirt with a harmless slogan, I hope that the court will take a few facts in mind:
- A month before the T-shirt incident, Raed Jarrar wrote "An Illegal War Degenerates / Iraq: Raped." He has a definite position on U.S. involvement in Iraq, and has actively promoted that position
- Raed Jarrar is the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange
Mr. Jarrar's bolg is In The Middle / Raed Jarrar's Blog.