March 3, 2009

We will not be silenced

Filed under: interview,opinion article — newritings @ 12:10 am

Raed Jarrar  organising... not silent

Raed Jarrar organising... not silent


the T-shirt bites back

I was wondering whether Kanoute had paid the fine already as I had a funny idea that 3 000 of us should line up at the Spanish Football Association’s bank to pay one euro each, when another T-shirt story caught my eye. It is a bit dated but it was a T-shirt story nevertherless and gives me an opportunity to argue for people’s action against bigots and those who have more power like those who inhabit the newsrooms in Fox studios. But this is a feel good story which is about a guy (in truth, representing many of us…)

Raed Jarrar was discriminated against simply because of his ethnicity and the Arabic message on his t-shirt.  Date 12 August 2006. Iraqi born architect Raed then took the matter up and with support of the American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on CLU Sues TSA Official, JetBlue for Discriminating Against Passenger Wearing Arabic T-Shirt (8/9/2007) charging that a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official (Inspector Harris ) and JetBlue Airways. The TSA official refused to allow Jarrad board the flight as ” would not let Raed Jarrar to board at John F. Kennedy Airport until he agreed to cover his t-shirt. The offensive t-shirt read “We Will Not Be Silent” in English and Arabic script. Jarrar alleged that officer Harris told him that he was not allowed to wear the Arabic shirt to an airport, as it was similar to a “person wearing a t-shirt at a bank stating, ‘I am a robber.'” Aparently other passengers complained about the so-called threatening t-shirt.

And the conservative media were going crazy. Fox presenters (some) amongst others were openly endorsing racial profiling – a growing trend after 9/11/2001 attacks on the US. But maybe you should read for yourself:,2933,211687,00.html in a partial transcript.

The interview “Jet Blue Forces Passenger To Remove Inflammatory Arabic T-Shirt” is quite hilarious if it was not dealing with peoples lives and reputations. The guest host of the “The O’Reilly Factor,” August 31, 2006,

JOHN KASICH: In the “Personal story” segment tonight, courting controversy at the airport at a time of heightened worry over terror.

Two days after British authorities foiled a plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic, a young Arab activist named Raed Jarrar tried to board a Jet Blue fight at JFK wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan “We will not be silent” in Arabic and English.

Tonight, Jarrar is complaining that he was pulled over by four security officers who refused to let him board until changed his shirt. He claims his civil rights were violated.

Joining us now from Washington is attorney David Oblon. David, what was this guy trying to do?

DAVID OBLON, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW ATTORNEY: According to him, he was trying to get on the airplane. And he hadn’t really given much thought about the shirt that he was wearing.

KASICH: Now David, listen, let me ask you a question here. And a simple answer. How does a guy two days after they stop 20, you know, 10, 20 planes from being blown up over the Atlantic, wear a shirt printed in Arabic that says, “We will not be silent.”

I mean, the guy obviously went there looking for trouble and looking to pick a fight. You don’t wear a shirt like that two days after this big plot was foiled?

OBLON: That’s not really a nefarious statement in and of itself, “We will not be silent.” I mean, that doesn’t sound like a very insightful statement. And the Supreme Court has clearly said that if you’re going to use a fighting word standard there has to be a clear and present danger of imminent lawlessness. And something like that just doesn’t cut it.

KASICH: David, have you ever been on airplanes with your family? You know, airplanes have become weapons, OK. Whenever we get on those airplanes now, particularly two days after these guys were threatening to blow the thing up, right. You’re sitting on that airplane and you’re looking at everybody that’s coming on that airplane.

Then you see some guy come on with some Arabic t-shirt that says, “We will not be,” you know, whatever the heck, “We will not be silent.” Wouldn’t that disturb you? Wouldn’t that make it uncomfortable? Wouldn’t you think that authorities might say who the heck is this guy?

You get the drift? so I will stop. If you want to read the whole version, go to their site.

But the story has a happy ending…

Jarrar and civil liberties won. We all won.

On 5 January 2009, two Transportation Security Authority (TSA) officials and JetBlue Airways were ordered to pay Raed Jarrar $240,000 to settle charges that they illegally discriminated against the U.S. resident based on his ethnicity and the Arabic writing on his t-shirt. The ACLU said in a statement: “The outcome of this case is a victory for free speech and a blow to the discriminatory practice of racial profiling,” said Aden Fine, senior staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group and lead attorney on the case. “This settlement should send a clear message to all TSA officials and airlines that they cannot discriminate against passengers based on their race or the ethnic content of their speech.”

A video featuring Jarrar is online at

PS. I do not have this t-shirt, nor Kanuote’s. Sorry.

Raed Jarrar is the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange, Iraqi blogger and architect. His blog is called Raed in the Middle.

1 Comment »

  1. As Boaventura de Sousa Santos, director of the Centro de Estudios Sociales in Coïmbra University, says in an interesting interview published in “La Magalla” (december 2008)we have the “risk of living in societies politically democratic but socially fascist”. The history you publish is just another example of how governments try reduce our movements in many issues. Why “free Tibet” and not “free Palestina”…?¿? a new “democratic paradigm” together with a new type of social contract is necessary if we want to change the dynamics we’re living in. Critical views have to be amplified in order to create a new “agreement”. It is needed a bottom-up process, and it should come from the South. Best regards Hass&Marta!!!

    Comment by Hernán Cortés — March 4, 2009 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

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