JetBlue Makes Passenger Change “Offensive” Arabic Tshirt

Haha, them reactionary mobs, worried that increased security measures will infringe constitutional rights. Ha ha ha, read this, motherfuckers.

Raed Jaer, pictured, left, describes an incident that occurred at JFK. He was wearing the shirt in the picture which says in Arabic script, “We will not be silent.” After passing through security, two inspectors, one of them identified by Raed as Harris, accompanied by a Jet Blue employee, came up to him and asked him to change his shirt as, “people are feeling offended.”

Jaer replied, “Why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn’t it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?” Inspector Harris said, “people here in the US don’t understand these things about constitutional rights.”

He added, “You can’t wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads “I am a robber” and going to a bank.”

Of course, the bigger story here for The Consumerist is that Jaer’s rights as a consumer were violated. We are very angry about that. Very very angry. (Thanks to Francis & Andrew!)

Comments

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  1. creamsissle says:

    I wonder if these will be the next big thing at Kitson…

    And “We will not be silent” could work well as the slogan for the forthcoming Consumerist t-shirt. :-)

  2. Smoking Pope says:

    Being in the right is probably of little consolation when you’re getting a cavity search, but good for this guy. That kind of idiocy needs to be challenged.

  3. homerjay says:

    He has every right to wear that shirt on a plane in this day and age. However, TSA and everyone around him have every right to be just a little more suspicious. Its human nature.

  4. I just got off the phone with Jetblue and discussed with a very nice CSR about the situation. She said she didn’t know of any policy against wearing shirts and what they say (as long as you are clean and covered was her quote).

    She went to talk to her supervisor and she came back with a prepared statement that said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We do what we can to make people feel confortable, but we also try to accept diversity. It was only the TSA that was involved and the investigation as to if anyone from JetBlue was involved and to what degree is still being investigated”.

    She then told me off the record that if a JetBlue employee was trying to have him cover the shirt, it was only to try and remove some embarassment from the customer. She then went off and told me that the TSA doesn’t care about customers and that they do whatever they want. She seemed to be speaking from the heart, so at least, Connie in Customer Service believes that JetBlue doesn’t promote racism.

  5. aixwiz says:

    Anyone know where I can get one of these shirts?

  6. Elsewhere says:

    A case of fear of the unknown? In that case, the TSA should be stopping each and every individual who has chosen to have Asian characters tatooed on their body. Most people wearing these characters will tell you they mean whatever the tatoo artist told them they mean, though most are gibberish; but hey, they could be threats!

  7. Thanks, Homerjay, for a bit of leverage. Let’s also clear up a few details.

    1.) The t-shirt in question states in both English and in Arabic, “We will not be silent.” Consumerist editor left out the part about it being in english as well. Certainly it doesn’t take a cretin to understand that it is intended to be provacative. It seems like Raed’s work for Iraq is wonderful, and his shirt obviously is related to that– but the average person in an airport isn’t going to know that. For all they know it could say, “God is the greatest!” in Arabic, followed by “We will not be silent”. Is it dumb to think so? Not really.

    2.) JetBlue did not make the passenger change the shirt as mentioned on Raed’s blog. here. A JetBlue worker was present during the questioning but Raed indicates that these were inspectors, ie: implied enforcers of the law, asking him to change his shirt. It’s quite possible that JetBlue initiated the original exchange with the inspectors that prompted their attention, however, if it was indeed from legitimate customer complaints then JetBlue is simply acting on their behalf.

    3.) OK so you’re an Arab and you’re wearing a shirt that says “We will not be silent” and an inspector walks over and asks you to change your shirt. Do you a.) Show them that you’re disappointed in his request, but since he is a person in some kind of authority kindly respect it? b.) Shout “Allahu Akhbar!” and stab him in the neck? c.) Go on a rant about how he’s violating your constitutional right to cause people anxiety, thereby exacerbating the situation.

    Consumerist, I love ya, but you gotta take a bit of the blame on this one. It would be unfair to pin the blame on JetBlue for this simply because this could have happened to Delta, or United Airways, or Contintental. Furthermore, you deliberately left out the fact that law enforcement was involed–why? You even went so far as to misattribute the quotes from the inspectors to Jet Blue employee quotes.

  8. Ben Popken says:

    Something_Amazing:

    The shirt is available in several different languages, including French, Spanish, and Farsi.

    As far as “misattributing,” it wasn’t clear from his account whether the inspectors were agents of Jetblue or the government. Fine, I will change it so it’s inspectors.

    Regarding, “but since he is a person in some kind of authority kindly respect it?” Give me a break. The request violated his rights as a consumer, an American and a human being. It was unreasonable and unconstitutional. He should be applauded for making a stand, not denigrated for hurting a bunch of ignorant coward’s feelings.

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Furthermore, what kind of integrity would Raed have if he wore a shirt that said, in any language, “We will not be silent,” and then was quiet and complacent when asked by authority figures to remove it?

  10. RandomHookup says:

    So it’s okay if I ask an airline to have a customer change clothing because it offends me as long as they do it on my behalf? If so, then I want the 500 pound woman out of that size L t-shirt that says “I’m with stupid” cause I’m extremely nauseous.

  11. Ben Popken says:

    People looking to buy the shirt can email: wewillnotbesilent [at that crazy] gmail {{dot}} com.

    This is their website: http://www.parkerstudio.com/AAW/aawhome.html

  12. RumorsDaily says:

    The only problem here is that the guy was looking for a fight. This sort of thing has a much better feel about it when the surprise of being asked to alter your behavoir is genuine. In this case, it seems like Raed went in looking to pick a fight, and SHOCK, he did.

    That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, it just means he’s going to get less sympathy than if he had just happened to wear his favorite shirt with an arabic slogan the day he was going flying.

    He certainly should not have taken it off and should not have bowed to authority… it’s not like he was carrying a freaking liquid after all.

  13. Kat says:

    “He has every right to wear that shirt on a plane in this day and age.”

    Would you wear a shirt saying “I’ve got a bomb” to the airport?

    I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to wear that shirt. I’m saying maybe it was stupid.

  14. Brian Gee says:

    Ingen is definitely looking for a fight.

    How did he go in looking to pick a fight? Because he was wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it? Give me a flippin break!

    So, like, after he changed shirts did the idiots around him feel any less scared? Was he all of a sudden “safe” since he wasn’t displaying any offensive text?

    And Kat2: would you PLEASE wear a shirt saying, “I’m an ignorant douchebag”, because that’s clearly what you demonstrated with your comment.

    I really hope I wake up to find the last 5 years have all just been some horrible nightmare.

  15. North of 49 says:

    To the average person, Arabic and Farsi are the same script. Even Arabic and Farsi are the same language if you don’t know the difference. I grew up on the fringe of both the Arabic and Farsi communities because I was being raised as a Baha’i by my parental unit. Even I, someone who started to learn to read the two languages, can’t discern between the two at a glance. I have to actually stare or listen for a few minutes to get the difference. So even if it was in Farsi, he would have been pulled off the bording line. Then again, it has been about 20 years since I last studied it and I was only starting my literacy studies at the time. I could tell the auditory difference between the two languages by the time I was 3 and I can still do that. It just takes time.

    Makes one wonder if a 70 year old caucasian woman would have had the same reaction that he generated.

  16. Kat says:

    Brian Gee, your caring comments warm my heart. Name calling is so mature.

  17. @ben_popken:

    Furthermore, what kind of integrity would Raed have if he wore a shirt that said, in any just jlanguage, “We will not be silent,” and then was quiet and complacent when asked by authority figures to remove it?

    Touche. Still, it’s not like they just arrested him on the spot and threw him in the quantanamo bay “bad t-shirt” club. They made a request and instead of just doing the right thing and voicing your opposition but still complying, he instead chose to raise a fit because of his victimization complex. He isn’t dumb– his blog clearly underscores that he is in a situation where he is often misunderstood, so why is it so hard for him to believe that someone might misinterpret the tone of his t-shirt?

    Also lacking in this read-up are the number of comprimises the airline inspectors and the JetBlue employees tried to reach:

    “You don’t have to take of your t-shirt, just put it on inside-out”. I refused to put on my shirt inside-out. So the woman interfered and said “let’s reach a compromise. I will buy you a new t-shirt and you can put it on on top of this one”. I said “I want to keep this t-shirt on”.

    Further underscoring his inability to work in a civilized manner (for the sake of making a “statement”) he also adds:

    …I felt threatened by Mr. Harmon’s remarks as in “Let’s end this the nice way”. Taking in consideration what happens to other Arabs and Muslims in US airports…

    I’d love to know what it is that happens to Arabs and Muslims at US airports? Do they get thrown in Guantanamo’s bad t-shirt club as well? Popken if indeed Muslims and Arabs are being mistreated at airports you would be sitting on a veritable goldmine of discrimination complaints.

    Actually I’m jealous– Raed claims in his blog that this was the first time he’s ever been subjected to a secondary security search where they make him take off his shoes and everything. How ironic, it seems to happen to me all of the time and I’ve never even had the distinction of travelling to the middle east on multiple occasions. Who’s being discriminated against, here?

  18. amazon says:

    s_a:
    The Maher Arar case is a pretty public example of “what happens Arabs and Muslims at US airports”.

    I know this is an extraordinary case, but so is a laptop exploding a case of bullets.

  19. amazon:

    Wow thanks for pointing that out to me– I actually hadn’t even heard of that case. That’s extremely interesting…

    You’re right– it is a bit extreme though :P I don’t think Raed was ever in *that* kind of danger.

  20. olegna says:

    Actually, Katz, it’s a federal offense to make such claims, in writing or otherwise. That’s a straw man comparison because saying “we will not be silent” is protected speech and saying you have a bomb in line to get on a plane is not.

    As far as I’m concerned the folks that would be scared of such a T-shirt should be the ones prevented from flying. They should be locked in their little Midwestern hovels fearfully watching the racist fearmongering of Fox News.

    Since when did Americans become such mouse-minded chickenshits?

  21. RandomHookup says:

    Of course, we know that the next set of suicide bombers will board the planes wearing kuffiya and inflamatory headscarves with Arabic script. They will be spouting anti-Americanisms and quoting from the Koran while calling all of our womenfolk whores. Should be easy to spot.

  22. AFAIK, aircraft and airports are private property, not public, and therefore not subject to “Constitutional rights of expression” as determined by the 1st amendment.

    Even if the airport is a public venue, the aircraft certainly is not and Jetblue has every right to demand that the person not wear the shirt…it is after all their airplane and in our country we allow people to have property rights.

    Oh and Olegna…got something against midwesterners? I would like to ask you your own question…

  23. Oh and Something_Amazing…you are amazing…I would agree with your assessment of “treatment of Muslims at US airports…” I travel regularly, and while I’ve been subject to searches a number of times in the US, the worst was actually Canada. During a stopover in Vancouver, I was interrogated 3 times and searched twice…they must have something against midwesterners like Olegna.

  24. mactbone says:

    I didn’t know that I had the right to demand that someone change their shirt if they’re on my property. I would imagine that a lot of places should adopt the policy that you must wear a shirt with thier logo to be permitted on the premises. Of course, they’ll sell you one if you forgot or don’t have one yet.

    There are some rights that private businesses can’t take away from citizens.

  25. mactbone says:

    Yeah, your two points of data are very compelling. You know, my pacific islander friend has never been stopped for speeding but I have. That means that whiteys like me are getting the shaft while those brown skinned folks zoom on the highways. Darn reverse racism.

  26. There are some rights that private businesses can’t take away from citizens.

    Yes, and demanding that people change their clothing is not one of those rights…ever here of dress codes?
    Yeah, your two points of data are very compelling. More compelling than the single point of evidence provided by Raed…this looks more and more like a publicity stunt.

  27. mactbone says:

    I could go find more examples if you want (like the 12 Indians arrested and released by the Dutch), but the mere fact that legislators are talking about instituting racial profiling as a policy should tell you that it’s easier to examine his experience in the context of a broader whole than it is to take two people’s experience and take that as the experience for the vast majority of white people.

    If there’s a dress code in airports then I should be able to find it mentioned somewhere on a website, their literature or maybe on a sign in the building. For some reason, they must hide it really well.

  28. Magister says:

    Being brown is enough to justify harrasement in our airports. I imagine most of the people here saying ‘he should have just taken off the shirt’ have never had an issue with being stopped just because you look ‘suspecious’. And that is defined as being maybe ‘arab-looking’.

    Why is it ok for brown people to be taken off a plane because some housewife on vacation doesn’t feel comfortable next to ‘them’?

    That is wrong, as it telling someone to take off thier shirt because it might make others nervous. If you are so weak as to be terrified by a freaking t-shirt, I invite you to Darwin yourself out.

  29. There’s no reason to find a t-shirt with Arabic script offensive unless you think Arabic = terrorist. Anyone who thinks Arabic = terrorist isn’t going to feel better if someone who looks Arabic changes their clothes so they should have just left it alone.

  30. RandomHookup says:

    While the airlines are private, they are covered by lots of regulations as public conveyances. Here’s an excerpt from the DOT web site for Aviation Consumer Protection:

    Since the terrorist hijackings and events of September 11, we have seen several reports of airlines apparently removing passengers from flights because the passengers appeared to be Middle Eastern and/or Muslim. We caution airlines not to target or otherwise discriminate against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, or based on passengers’ names or modes of dress that could be indicative of such classification. Various Federal statutes prohibit air carriers from subjecting a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.

    A passenger singled out for a generally inoffensive statement written in Arabic script would seem to violate the spirit of this directive.

  31. mistress smarty says:

    Yeah, I’m gonna add fuel to the fire (heh).

    something_amazing: “For all they know it could say, “God is the greatest!” in Arabic…”

    What is wrong with that? To me, nothing.

    Kat2: You are ignorant.

    olegna: Thank you, but that attitude is not limited to Midwesterners.

    I do NOT think Raed was spoiling for a fight.

  32. Triteon says:

    Based on some comments above, and as a Midwesterner I’m beginning to believe Coastal-Americans are a threat to my security:)

  33. Interesting point RandomHookup. Thanks for the info, and I agree that asking this guy to change his shirt seems contrary to the spirit of that cautionary advisory, but this does not preclude the fact that businesses have a right to demand certain things about a passenger’s dress. They never demanded that he change his shirt because he was Muslim, Arabic, a man, etc. They asked him to change his shirt because it was making others uncomfortable.

    It is NOT as Mr. Raed claims, his Consititutional right to wear a T-shirt to express himself while onboard a private airplane…he can wear it on the street all day long, who cares?

    I think, “Harris” might have been referring to Mr. Raed regarding not understanding Constitutional rights. As Kat2 mentioned, (I don’t know why people are giving him so much shit…) you cannot wear a shirt that says, “I have a bomb” or you cannot yell “fire” in a building…our supposed Constitutional rights of Free Speech actually have some fairly strict resctrictions.

  34. Anonymously says:

    If someone says someting “off the record” and you record it on a public forum, is it still “off the record”?

  35. mactbone says:

    Are you saying that you would change out of your “You’re With Me Leather” shirt if Chris Berman was on the same flight as you and told a flight attendant that it “made him uncomfortable?”

    Who owns the airports? Are they really private places? Don’t they seem to be as public as a bus or train terminal? Can this happen if you’re in any facility that is private?

    I guess I don’t subscribe to the notion that anyone can tell me the content of what I can wear and not the substance. I understand dress codes that tell you what kinds of clothes but I wouldn’t expect them to be able to curtail what the content of the clothes would be.

  36. radiofree says:

    It does not matter a whit what the t-shirt said (unless it said something directly bomb-related, which is against the law). The first amendment is pretty clear in its meaning, and while it’s not absolute, it does cover the instance of Raed at the airport. He was not yelling fire.

    Whether I agree with Raed, like Raed, know Raed: His right to wear the shirt is absolute, and those of us posting to a blog where we have the same rights should be in his corner without exception.

    What happened to that old saying: I may disagree with you 100%, but I will fight to death for you to say it.

  37. Triteon says:

    Where are the complaints about restaurants that require a jacket or a tie? That require patrons to wear shoes and/or a shirt? Isn’t it our “right” to wear whatever we want wherever we want whenever we want? How dare they!

  38. radiofree says:

    There is a difference between the sanitary requirements of serving food and the free speech guarantees of the 1st Amendment. And, if you wanted to make a (Federal) case of it, you could argue that the restuarant is restricting your political or religious speech by demanding you wear certain garb.

  39. LeopardSeal says:

    I think we’re all missing the real question here:

    Would all this have happened if it had been a white guy wearing that shirt?

    Paranoia is a funny thing, and it seems to be spreading like cancer.

  40. mactbone says:

    In any case, if a government employee and not the proprietor of the establishment decided to kick you out because of the content of a shirt then that should be illegal. All government employees have to uphold the constitution. None of the airlines own the airport either, so it doesn’t matter what they think.

  41. matto says:

    There seems to be a bit of a problem of seeing the bottom line here. JetBlue chose to pander to the ignorance of other passengers, and presumed to dictate to Raed what language text on his tshirt should be in. They then compounded their idiocy with moronic comments they made to him as he tried to understand their request.

    His line of questioning regarding conlaw-protected speech and expression is unfortunate, and a red herring many racists and xenophobes in this discussion have pounced on to cloud the issue.

    Its not a freedom of speech issue. Its an issue of JetBlue behaving in a racist and ignorant manner, and whether as consumers we should tolerate it.

  42. The Bans says:

    The bigger issue isn’t that Jet Blue made him change the shirt but rather that this dumb dick would rather make a statement about his liberties. No one gets on anyone case when someone steps up to someone else and tells them NOT to curse in front of kids cause it infrings on his freedom of expression. You just don’t do it cause they are kids.

    This is a similar situation of making other people uncomfortable and because HE didn’t want to be personally inconvienced he made a stink about it. Its inconsiderate at the face of it but he will most likely be rewarded for it.

    “It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people’s houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker.”

    Yeah look at the common factor DUMMY! it’s not the US doing this. I have similar characteristics to the “Middle eastern” profile and if they were like “Dress in a tutu to make the other passengers feel better” I’d do it. Stop being a douche respect your fellow man before your personal civil liberties. Dude was an asshole.

  43. Triteon says:

    Matto, I completely agree on all points. Neither side is completely in the right.

  44. homerjay says:

    Well said, Bans…. This guy needs to realize that he’s not the only one living on this planet and that they moon actually revolved around all of us, not just him.

  45. Triteon says:

    “Isn’t this my contitutional right to wear it?”
    Raed, I checked– nope, doesn’t look like there’s a new amendment anywhere. But I’m just an ad man, not a Constitutional scholar. You’ll see the word “vested” used but I don’t think it’s in relation to clothing.
    http://www.house.gov/house/Constitution/Constitution.html<…

  46. Stop being a douche respect your fellow man before your personal civil liberties.

    Since when is the Arabic language disrespectful? Or are all languages other than English unacceptable?

    How ‘respectful’ were they being when they told him wearing a shirt with Arabic on it was equivalent to going into a bank with a shirt saying that you’re a bank robber?

  47. radiofree says:

    Triteon and Matto: Yes, one side is COMPLETELY in the right, and that’s Raed’s side, or more generally, the side that believes in freedom of expression.

    And Bans — If someone wants to curse in front of children, well, it’s their right to do so, as long as it is in a publicly owned space, such as, say, an airport. What’s more important is the agreement arrived at between curser and parent, and that’s a social contract, and that’s a whole other issue (this country has pretty much shredded it’s social contract).

    Once again, if this issue is framed (correctly) as a rights issue, there is a clear right and wrong. As for what we as consumers are willing to do about it, what are our choices?

    The ballot box

    Our preferred airline

    Letters

    All showing up at the airport with shirts adorned with any kind of foreign script (particularly Farsi or Arabic)

    The list goes on …

  48. I have a big ass tattoo of my name in Arabic on my forearm, and I have never had any issues with airport security. But then again, I’m not Middle Eastern looking.

    I love to confuse people when I wear my St. Louis Cardinals hat that is written in Hebrew.

  49. GenXCub says:

    Can’t you see he was just a distraction? They detain him so that others can sneak their boxes of snakes on board… ingenious.

  50. matto says:

    OLD MEME

  51. mikelite says:

    wanna do something? Buy a shirt: http://itsnotallbad.com/iamnotaterrorist/

  52. Paul says:

    Since September 11th, 2001, I have been selected for “special screening” at airports more than a dozen times. In fact, I have been selected for extra screenings for every flight I have taken. I am a mid 20s white Marine, but it hasn’t ever prompted anybody to let me by without that extra attention. I’ve even been pulled out of line at checkpoints in my Dress Blues.

    I’m not going to argue that this “we will not be silent” thing was justified or rational, but I don’t think that anyone with experience in con law would find a real violation here…private businesses have the right to exclude patrons from their property for anything they see fit. Limitations on viewpoint restrictions almost never apply to private parties. The government is the only entity that regularly is required to abide by such things.

    Raed is rightfully outraged at his treatment. If I had ever been a JetBlue customer, I would not remain one, after reading this. But security indignities don’t seem to be any more focused on Middle-Easterners than anyone else. Turn around next time you go through the metal detectors, and watch who gets pulled out of line and checked “at random.” While you’re watching them, pretend they REALLY ARE each choosing people they believe to be MOST LIKELY to be a danger to others.

    After ten minutes of that, you will probably fall into one of 3 categories. One will think that airport security is ridiculous, be outraged at where our priorities are, and make snarky but ultimately useless criticisms about the inconvenience of having to pack your toothpaste in a different bag. You will probably be able to write about the terrible inconvenience on your blog, later, when your plane lands after not having been blown up, but I bet you won’t think a single grateful thought that someone at least tried to keep weapons off your flight.

    The second group will also think airport security is ridiculous, and be outraged at where our priorities are. Any suggestion you make about focusing limited security resources on people most likely to wage war on an airplane will be dismissed as racist.

    The third group will think airport security is racist. And unconstitutional. My dad belongs to this group, and thinks that until you shoot, stab, or poison someone, you should be able to bring guns, knives, or drugs onto the plane.

    But I doubt any of you will see a disproportionate number of Middle-Eastern males between the ages of 17 and 40 pulled out of line to be checked. No matter what you think about airport security, claiming arabs or persians are being unfairly subjected to more security is patently false.

  53. Anonymous says:

    I am very saddened to see the number of idiots on this posting. Heartened to hear the one’s who don’t have their head up their ass. How can we (America) be the greatest country in the world with so many people with low (or about non-existent) IQs. I am really baffled. How could someone be so stupid to be offended at words in arabic (which actually stand for peace) AND then even more… how could someone else think that they could dicate the irrational to that person.

    I am really baffled… Come on guys, grow an IQ…

  54. FMulder says:

    Since there are so many arab/arabic-speaking Christians, a t-shirt with arabic words could be saying “I Love Jesus” but the idiots who only think Arabic = Muslim = Terrorists, wouldn’t think that was possible. What if it is a non-Arabic speaking Muslim? Maybe their t-shirt is in any number of African, Asian, languages and THEY are terrorists — because of course terrorists will be wearing a t-shirt to express themselves. I guess that would make sense to the t-shirt slogan zombie masses that have a t-shirt reflecting every mood and idea (I LOVE BEER!)to identify what they believe in.

    Since when is the Arabic language forbidden? What does a terrorist look like? McVey? Or haven’t you seen blue-eyed blond white-skinned Arabs, just like there are very dark-skinned African Arabs?

    The passengers who got nervous seeing a t-shirt in Arabic should have been removed from the plane. A person with a bomb could walk by them, but if the person wore a nun’s habit, they wouldn’t pay attention – and we realize that if a priest was dragging a small half-naked boy, they’d also look away…

    But seeing words in another ‘strange’ language? That’s what they panic about? Proves the complete ignorance of so many in this society.

  55. MandM813 says:

    I can’t believe what this country has turned in to. How the hell can anyone justify this? It’s not just being inconvenienced to change a shirt, it’s the principle. Not to mention the embarrassment he must have felt. Not to mention the IDIOTS who think that wearing a shirt in Arabic is the equivilant of wearing a shirt that says “I have a bomb”. I mean, are you for real???? Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic, ARE YOU FOR REAL???????????