Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You Look Iraqi -- Please Take a Seat in the Rear

Raed Jarrar is an American architect of Iraqi descent living in America (legally, thank-you very much). He recently returned from a trip to Syria and Jordan, where he visited Lebanese refugee camps and met with members of the Iraq parliament. In his Blog, Raed in the Middle, he notes that the anger towards the United States in connection with the Israeli attacks was palpable and indiscriminate -- it included him:
The other thing you can't miss in Jordan and Syria is people's anger against the US. On more than occasion, I got shouted at because I live in the US. The most interesting incident was during a visit to a Lebanese refugee camp. I was called by two young Lebanese people, and they asked me whether me and the rest of the delegation visiting their shelter where coming from the US. I said yes. They said: "you better get the hell out of here unless you want us to make a scene". I tried to explain that we are the "good" Americans who are against the war, so they said go back home and change your government. "you can't come here visit us in a shelter that we were sent to because of your tax money and your bombs, and expect us to be nice to you". So me and the other Americans got the hell out of there.
He was part of the US antiwar delegation that met with Iraqi MPs and others earlier in August. Tom Hayden was also there and wrote about the meetings in a recent Nation article.

After the week-long trip, he returned to the United States and spent a day in D.C., before taking the bus to New York for his flight home to California. That's when he got a taste of American Freedom, Bush-style.

It started when he passed through the security gates and was "randomly" selected for a more thorough search. He, and his papers, being in order, he was permitted to pass through and proceeded to his gate. While enjoying a snack of grapes, cheese, and orange juice, he was approached by several official and officious representatives of the 'freedom-loving' American government, and Jet Blue.

It seems as though Mr. Jarrar had attracted Jet Blue's attention because he was wearing a t-shirt with Arabic writing on it. He was, apparently, unaware of some of the new, albeit unwritten, laws we have in the country today. One of them being that anything arabicish is terroristic until proved otherwise. You see, his t-shirt, which he was wearing in the picture at the head of this article, reprinted, in Arabic and English, the simple slogan "We will not be silent". That's what he thinks. This is American, pal, and we have ways of silencing you:
One of the two men who approached me first, Inspector Harris, asked for my id card and boarding pass. I gave him my boarding pass and driver's license. He said "people are feeling offended because of your t-shirt". . . . I said "I am very sorry if I offended anyone, I didn't know that this t-shirt will be offensive". He asked me if I had any other T-shirts to put on, and I told him that I had checked in all of my bags and I asked him "why do you want me to take off my t-shirt? Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" The second man in a greenish suit interfered and said "people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights". So I answered him "I live in the US, and I understand it is my right to wear this t-shirt".
Oh, so now you want rights? Look, this is a different world after 9/11 and we're sorry, but sometimes you just have to give up a few rights -- like the first amendment (not to mention the fourth and fifth) -- or we'll be fighting your brethren in our grocery stores. Look, all kidding aside, this Inspector Harris had a very persuasive point when he told Mr. Jarrar that "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". Apparently, Mr. Jarrar had not considered that simply having something written in Arabic was the equivalent of announcing that you're a bank robber.

Not only was he a bank robber, but don't think we could let it pass that the t-shirt was also the slogan of a group of people who are critical of the whole Iraq-war thing. So, not only is he a bank robbing terrorist, but if he is opposing our war policies, our government now views him as the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser. Since the Nazis were fascists, I guess that makes Mr. Jarrar an Islamic Fascist in the eyes of our government. And he's whining over having to change a t-shirt? Why, he's lucky they didn't put him on a plane to occupied Cuba!

Well, now that he understood, he permitted the Jet Blue clerk to buy him a new t-shirt to wear on his flight (because the other passengers were nervous about what those Arabic letters might do if they were permitted to be exposed once in the air). And he thought that was the end of it, but not when you fly Jet Blue, they had another surprise for Mr. Jarrar. They were moving him from the front of the plane -- seat 3a on his confirmed boarding pass -- to the rear -- seat 24a. Mr. Jarrar had this observation from his trip:
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.
Indeed. He also had a good recommendation that I am passing along. We should let Jet Blue know how we feel about their treatment of Mr. Jarrar. Leave them your comments here.

(h/ts to Ol' Froth and A Spork in the Drawer for their prior coverage of the whole mess.)


4 comments:

Doctor Rick said...

I support profiling.

opit said...

The whirled is such an interesting place ! I was just reading about a teenager visiting Canada who lost his I-Pod in the onboard toilet with ludicrous results, including grounding the airliner for a search. I think I found the link at Advice Goddess ( an intemperate soul herself, but entertaining ).

LVDem said...

"Not only was he a bank robber, but don't think we could let it pass that the t-shirt was also the slogan of a group of people who are critical of the whole Iraq-war thing. So, not only is he a bank robbing terrorist, but if he is opposing our war policies, our government now views him as the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser. Since the Nazis were fascists, I guess that makes Mr. Jarrar an Islamic Fascist in the eyes of our government. And he's whining over having to change a t-shirt? Why, he's lucky they didn't put him on a plane to occupied Cuba!"

See, I never understood how that all came to be but I think I now understand: the GOP needs weak associations to generate fear and get votes. Fear is amazing but I stop every now and then to remember that I stopped being afraid of the dark when I turned 8. That's a lesson for the GOP.

Anonymous said...

My friend just told me Delta made her turn her "George Bush Killed My Dog" t-shirt inside out because it was "offensive". Last week! Insane.