Get Shirty

Raed Jarrar, California-based Iraqi who updates the Raed in the Middle blog, was forced to cover a t-shirt he was wearing on August 17, before boarding a JetBlue Airways flight from JFK to California. The t-shirt had the legend WE WILL NOT BE SILENT in Arabic and English. This is Raed’s description of the events in his own words.

Since the incident, a group of artists called The Critical Voice have started a campaign.

On August 24th, four of us, all white women and US citizens, wore these t-shirts and flew JetBlue from New York City to Washington DC and back the next day. At no point were we asked to take off or cover our t-shirts, although airport security offi cials were observing us. We, Laurie Arbeiter, Susan Kingsland, Caroline Parker and Ann Shirazi, flew on JetBlue Flight 1309 from New York/JFK (dep. 5:35pm) to Washington, DC/Dulles (arr. 7:10 pm). Caroline and Laurie sat in seat 24A/B, Ann and Susan in seat 25A/B. We were highly visible at JFK airport as we made phone calls, got food, and used restrooms. At no time were we approached by security or JetBlue employees. We proceeded through the security check-points and metal detectors without incident. We remained in DC overnight and flew back on Jet Blue the next day taking a flight at 5:15 pm from Dulles to JFK.

I can understand why you might not want lend your support to this campaign since there are perfectly valid reasons why an airline would want to protect its passengers from pre-flight anxiety. But on this occassion I can’t think of any, can you?

This is a deplorable knee-jerk on the part of the airline which should not be tolerated, that much we know and understand. But what I don’t is how Arabic text can be offensive.

The Critical Voice first introduced the WE WILL NOT BE SILENT t-shirt campaign in March 2006 as a creative means to encourage dissent against the war in Iraq and the curtailing of civil liberties in the US, including racial profiling and detention of Muslim and other Immigrants. The statement derives from the White Rose student resistance movement which opposed Nazi rule in Germany. The t-shirts have been seen widely in the United States and abroad at many events and have been worn by various groups.

The idea then is that more people should wear Arabic text as a gesture of solidarity against this ridiculous reaction. Well thats a laudable idea and one that I’ll be supporting. I’ll order the t-shirt but I certainly won’t be wearing it on a flight out from Heathrow. I’m not a white American woman, so I doubt I’ll be given the same laxity.

Order yours from here.

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    Last week Delta made my friend turn inside-out her “George Bush Killed My Dog” shirt because it was “offensive”.

  2. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Ah yes, Muslims and Americans, so quick to take offence.

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