August 23, 2006

Interview with Raed Jarrar

The other day Amy Goodman had an interview with Raed Jarrar, the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange. Jarrar also blogs at Raed in the Middle.

Evidently, one thing Raed found out about flying in the United States, is that you are not allowed to wear a t-shirt with Arabic script.

RAED JARRAR: ... I was supposed to take my airplane, my Jet Blue airplane from JFK to Oakland in California last Saturday. So I went to the airport in the morning, and I was prevented to go to my airplane by four officers, because I was wearing this t-shirt that says “We will not be silent” in both Arabic and English. And I was told by one of the officials that wearing a t-shirt with Arabic script in an airport now is like going to a bank with a t-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

AMY GOODMAN: That's what the security said to you?

RAED JARRAR: Yeah. I was questioned by four officials from -- I think some of them were from Jet Blue and others were maybe policemen or FBI. I have no idea. I took their names and badge numbers, and I filed a complaint through ACLU against them, because I asked them very directly to let me go to the airplane, because it's my constitutional right as a U.S. taxpayer and resident to wear a t-shirt with Arabic script. And they prevented to let me exercise this right, and they made me cover the script with another t-shirt.

AMY GOODMAN: So they said you could not fly if you wore your t-shirt that said, “We will not be silent”?

RAED JARRAR: Yes. They said that very clearly.

The interview covered Raed's recent trip to the Middle East and also what he thinks about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. What he says is that Iraqis believe that the Bush policies are responsible for the violence.

So mostly people are accusing the U.S., unfortunately, of interfering to increase the sectarian violence, because they see that it's the Bush administration's benefit to increase this violence and justify longer presence in Iraq, longer interference in Iraq. And, like, you know, it's widely used now as the only justification.

It's a fascinating interview, and one well worth listening to or reading.

Posted by Mary at August 23, 2006 08:00 AM | Media | Technorati links |

I wonder how true that absolute prohibition would hold if a blue-eyed blonde woman showed up to an airport wearing something with Arabic script on it.

Posted by: natasha at August 23, 2006 02:33 PM

I think this not so great

12 Passengers Arrested After Flight to India Returns to Amsterdam

Posted by: etgtg at August 23, 2006 03:59 PM

What's the guy complaining about? He got a free T-Shirt!

Seriously ... is there "paranoia" in the air? Sure. And for good reason. Now would a real hijacker wear a t-shirt like that? One would think not. But given what happened on 9/11 and what has been attempted since, I can understand why some OTHER PASSENGERS would be worried by the sight of this guy wearing this t-shirt. They are afraid the same could happen to them. Out on consideration for the fear of the other passengers, a fear that is generally justified (though probably NOT with a guy wearing an Arabic t-shirt with the provocative message "We will not be Silent"). However, I think our author is intentionally playing dumb. There is a very real chance that he wore that t-shirt intentionally, with the hope that it would evoke fear in the minds of other passengers, and precisely so that he would be searched, so that he could do such a story. Maybe not ... but maybe yes. Because anyone with half-a-brain would know that such a t-shirt on an airplane today (particularly give what happened most recently with the UK terrorist plot to blow up several planes) would scare some fellow passengers - even if that fear is unreasonable as to this doofus -- and that there was a good chance there would be some fallout as a result.

Of course he has the Constitutional right to wear any t-shirt he wants. That's not the issue. The issue is the degree of consideration he lacked for the fears of other passengers, albeit unreasonable fear given that a terrorist would probably not wear such a shirt. For example what if he was wearing a shirt with Osama Bin Ladin's photo and script in English and Arabic, "Blow up 1000 more airplanes, destroy a 1000 more buildings! Death to America!" Or maybe just with the caption, "JIHAD UNTIL VICTORY!" Even though he would have a Constitutional right to wear such a shirt ... don't you think that might make other people nervous on an airplane? (Even if that fear was unjustified?).

Getting beyond this specific incident ... the general fears of the public are NOT paranoid. Not when you have terrorist cells active throughout the world advocating a jihadist ideology supporting suicide bombings and terrorist acts. Not when you have radical Islamist leaders threatening to destroy Israel and the West, and developing nuclear weapons and other WMDs to do so. Not when we know they value the reward in the world to come (for killing the enemy -- i.e. us) more than life itself. Not when there is indication that terrorist cells are operating in the US and overseas to kill innocent Americans -- including most recently on airplanes.

My sense is that the airline folk just wanted to try to decrease the fear level of other passengers. That is the airline's responsibility. They are the ones that have to deal with panicked passengers on a flight. At times even health crises can occur on a plane as a result. But even absent that, the airline's job is to make the flight as smooth and have the passengers feel as safe as possible. Sure, our "hero" might think to himself, "Hey, their fear is their problem ... I'm not responsible for their paranoia!" But if the guy had had an ounce of consideration, he would have realized in advance (if he didn't in fact realize in advance) that the t-shirt would scare some fellow passengers on an airplane today.

In short -- I think the guy is a self-centered inconsiderate jerk. So wrapped up in himself and his own thing that he just doesn't care about anyone else.

I'll give you another example -- one that did NOT even involve the fear of other passengers. I was going on a flight from Washington DC to L.A. In an airport a few months earlier I purchased a "joke" driver's license sized card that said "Terrorist Hunting License" with a photo of Osama bin Ladin on it and terrorist principles on the back - mocking the terrorists. This was like a year after 9/11. I had forgotten that I had stuck in on the other side of my company ID, which I is on a chain. When I threw it in the baggage check box and it emerged from the X-Ray machine, this was visible. The inspector got really pissed off. He and a colleague pulled me aside. They threatened to take me into another room and interrogate me. They said I would miss my flight. I had to jump through hoops to explain that I had purchased the novelty item in an airport, and that I had forgotten that I had it with my ID. I demonstrated that it was in fact an anti-terrorist card. I showed them my company ID, etc ... and some work related materials ... to establish the purpose of my travel, and a co-worker who was with me backed me up. I felt really stupid. But I could have missed my flight. Did I have a constitutional right to carry that "badge"? Would I have had a right to wear Osama bin Ladin's photo around my neck? Yes. But to do so on an airplane TODAY is just damned stupid. And inconsiderate. Also query whether a person has a "Constitutional Right" to fly on a privately owned common carrier, if their t-shirt or "badge" (in my case) is known to evoke fear on the part of other passengers on the flight. A person doing so is just asking for trouble. I felt like a real dope. I felt the inspector's anger was justified -- even though I clearly did not pose a threat. Hmmm ... somehow, it didn't occur to me to write an article about this incident.

Posted by: Michael at August 25, 2006 10:15 AM

I called Jetblue and was told that several passengers were afraid and asked that he remove his shirt. Now, why would a racist request be taken more seriously than a constitutional right is beyond me. The only answer I can come up with is that we truly do not have "freedom". I was also told that it was security that asked him to remove it and not Jetblue. HOWEVER...why did they move his seat? They could not answer the question and acted as if they didn't know his seat was moved. I told them the reason they don't have an answer is b/c the only answer is racism. Why didn't they move the woman and the toddler to the back. How is that different than Rosa Parks having to ride in the back of the bus? Michael, you are probably right...maybe he did do this to write an article....however maybe there's a need for that article. He's expressing his anger and his anger is justified. Would you prefer that expression of anger be similar to a suicide bomer's? I'm tired of the "they hate us" "they don't want us to have our freedom" George W. bs.. That is not the answer as to why there is a lot of anger from the Middle East towards the US. We need to get to the root of the problem. Face it, we MADE Iraq what it is. No one hates anyone b/c of "freedom". If we truly had freedom our news would be more like the BBC. But no...we have CNN feeding us information that is filtered through several sources including Israel! CNN reporters are not even allowed to use the word "settlements" when referring to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead they are forced to use the word "Neighborhoods." If you listen or read anything by Robert Fisk you'll know that reporters are in constant fear of losing their careers if they're branded as anti-semetic. Our own reporters - people who are giving us information don't have freedom so how can we assume we do?

Posted by: Janet at September 1, 2006 01:51 PM