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What happened to Raed at JFK
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What happened to Raed at JFK

This is my buddy Raed (http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/) who has lived in Baghdad but is from Jordan. He is the cousin of Salam Pax (the famous Iraqi blogger)



I went to JFK in the morning to catch my Jet Blue plane to California. I reached Terminal 6 at around 7:15 am, issued a boarding pass, and checked all my bags in, and then walked to the security checkpoint. For the first time in my life, I was taken to a secondary search . My shoes were searched, and I was asked for my boarding pass and ID. After passing the security, I walked to check where gate 16 was, then I went to get something to eat. I got some cheese and grapes with some orange juice and I went back to Gate 16 and sat down in the boarding area enjoying my breakfast and some sunshine.
At around 8:30, two men approached me while I was checking my phone. One of them asked me if I had a minute and he showed me his badge, I said: "sure". We walked some few steps and stood in front of the boarding counter where I found out that they were accompanied by another person, a woman from Jet Blue.
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 looked at my t-shirt: I was wearing my shirt which states in both Arabic and English "we will not be silent". You can take a look at it in this picture taken during our Jordan meetings with Iraqi MPs. I said "I am very sorry if I offended anyone, I didnt 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".
Then I once again asked the three of them : "How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn't this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?" so inspector Harris answered "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". I said "but the message on my t-shirt is not offensive, it just says "we will not be silent". I got this t-shirt from Washington DC. There are more than a 1000 t-shirts printed with the same slogan, you can google them or email them at wewillnotbesilent@gmail.com . It is printed in many other languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, English, etc." Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message". So based on the fact that Jet Blue doesn't have a translator, anything in Arabic is suspicious because maybe it'll mean something bad!
Meanwhile, a third man walked in our direction. He stood with us without introducing himself, and he looked at inspector Harris's notes and asks him: "is that his information?", inspector Harris answered "yes". The third man, Mr. Harmon, asks inspector Harris : "can I copy this information?", and inspector Harris says "yes, sure".
inspector Harris said: "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". Both inspector Harris and Mr. Harmon said "No, we can't let you get on that airplane with your t-shirt". I said "I am ready to put on another t-shirt if you tell me what is the law that requires such a thing. I want to talk to your supervisor". Inspector Harris said "You don't have to talk to anyone. Many people called and complained about your t-shirt. Jetblue customers were calling before you reached the checkpoint, and costumers called when you were waiting here in the boarding area".
it was then that I realized that my t-shirt was the reason why I had been taken to the secondary checking.
I asked the four people again to let me talk to any supervisor, and they refused.
The Jet Blue woman was asking me again to end this problem by just putting on a new t-shirt, and 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, and realizing that I will miss my flight unless I covered the Arabic script on my t-shirt as I was told by the four agents, I asked the Jet Blue woman to buy me a t-shirt and I said "I don't want to miss my flight."
She asked, what kind of t-shirts do you like. Should I get you an "I heart new york t-shirt?". So Mr. Harmon said "No, we shouldn't ask him to go from one extreme to another". I asked mr. harmon why does he assume I hate new york if I had some Arabic script on my t-shirt, but he didn't answer.
The woman went away for 3 minutes, and she came back with a gray t-shirt reading "new york". I put the t-shirt on and removed the price tag. I told the four people who were involved in the conversation: "I feel very sad that my personal freedom was taken away like this. I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the US was that I don't want an officer to make me change my t-shirt. I will pursue this incident today through a Constitutional rights organization, and I am sure we will meet soon". Everyone said okay and left, and I went back to my seat.
At 8:50 I was called again by a fourth young man, standing with the same jetblue woman. He asked for my boarding pass, so I gave it to him, and stood in front of the boarding counter. I asked the woman: "is everything okay?", she responded: "Yes, sure. We just have to change your seat". I said: "but I want this seat, that's why I chose it online 4 weeks ago", the fourth man said " there is a lady with a toddler sitting there. We need the seat."
Then they re-issued me a small boarding pass for seat 24a, instead of seat 3a. They said that I can go to the airplane now. I was the first person who entered the airplane, and I was really annoyed about being assigned this seat in the back of the airplane too. It smelled like the bathrooms, which is why I had originally chosen a seat which would be far from that area.

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Im just waiting for when this wonderful govnt of ours starts the internment camps back up. Fuckers!

god, i hope he pursues it.

he was just on democracy now yesterday!

That's totally fucked up - the whole thing, the "I will buy you a new T-shirt" business to changing his seat. Don't they generally get everyone seated and then ask whether anyone minds changing - in a nice diplomatic way?

based on the rest of the story, i think they wanted him on the plane, in the back, where no one else would see him, rather than right up front.

the woman/ baby was a ruse.

This is such utter horse shit. I am stunned. I am getting one of those shirts.............

Let me know how if you find out.

If you can't understand the language, how can you be offended by speech? I've heard of this happening before to friends wearing t-shirts with slogans but in most cases it's been some private security personnel. This is the first time I can remember federal screeners taking such actions.

As if a bomber would wear a fucking t-shirt declaring his intentions, in a language millions of people understand.

Something about fellow passengers reporting this doesn't ring true. Sounds more like an overzealous Jet Blue employee.

Dunno. There was recently a report in the papers about two Asian Muslim men who were taken off an airplane because other customers kept coming off the plane and saying they refused to fly if those men were also on their flight. In the end, the two men were taken off, questioned for hours, and finally put back on another flight. I don't have a link to the article handy, but if you didn't hear the story, I'm sure there are other folks here who will corroborate it for me.

I certainly wouldn't put it past other customers to complain about someone in their waiting area like that.

t shirt

(Anonymous)

2006-08-22 08:37 pm (UTC)

I don't have a problem with this at all. It sounds to me like they (security) went out of their way to make you feel less uncomfortable than you could have been. They apparently had one heck of a lot of PAYING passengers that decided they did not want to be nervous the whole flight about you and complaining about your t-shirt got them exactly what they wanted: you to be checked out. Nothing wrong with that since a lot of people in the world seem to want all us infidels dead. Imagine the 3,000 lives including CHILDREN saved if a couple of passengers had voiced concerns over any one of the 19 9/11 hijackers demeanor.

GOD BLESS AMERICA and smite it's enemies!

You "anonymous", are an idiot.

I don't have a problem with this at all. It sounds to me like they (security) went out of their way to make you feel less uncomfortable than you could have been. They apparently had one heck of a lot of PAYING passengers that decided they did not want to be nervous the whole flight about you and complaining about your t-shirt got them exactly what they wanted: you to be checked out. Imagine the 3,000 lives saved if a couple of passengers had voiced concerns over any one of the 19 9/11 hijackers demeanor.

complaining about your t-shirt

hahaha!

Thank your fellow terrorist Muslims

(Anonymous)

2006-08-22 08:49 pm (UTC)

For the ridiculous treatment you received.

I totally agree with you, A T-Shirt is not going to harm anyone and TSA behaved foolishly.

But then again, thats all that TSA can do, is to behave foolish and hold "Security Theatre", where they in all earnest do stupid things to make people feel safer, which in the end only annoy people.

Of course you are not the only one annoyed. Prior to the Muslim attack of 9/11, Flying was fairly enjoyable. Now I must take ridiculous and stupid steps and stand in long lines because Islam and its love of blood.

While I don't think for a minute that you are a terrorist, Muslim in general have failed to reign in their crazy brethern, and now we ALL must suffer.

Get a grip on Islam, and foolishness like this will eventually subside.


Re: Thank your fellow terrorist Muslims

z3ro666

2006-08-22 09:05 pm (UTC)

Getting a grip on fucking imperialism would be a nice step in the right direction, you racist sack of shit.

- Adam

"people here in the US don't understand these things about constitutional rights"

Apparently not. Wow.

This is absolutely fucking ridiculous. I can't believe anyone had to go through such a thing because they chose to express a sentiment that we SHOULD ALL BE EMBRACING.

it doesn't sound that surprising to me. tho i agree with concept that people should be able to wear whatever they want whenever they want, it does strike me as a bad idea to wear a shirt with script that no one can understand to an airport where the xenophobia level is right up there with a klan rally. if he really wanted to get on the plane quickly and easily, a different choice of shirt would have done the trick, but being born a different race would have been the best bet.

i am, however, taken aback at the level of surprise people are expressing over this story. what did you think would happen? did you think people would just look at his shirt and be understanding of the point it makes? did you think they would look at his brown skin and suddenly be accepting? this is america and we have a long history of making ourselves look foolish in both policy and practice. that is not to say that outrage isn't the best course of action. of course you have to speak out against such injustices. of course such things are bullshit. but what can you honestly expect from this country in these years.

now, i am not saying "roll over and let it happen", but picking a battle over a t-shirt that was probably a bad idea in the first place, not the best fight. pushed to the wall, of course i side with the t-shirt wearer over the pigs, but as far as common sense and comfort goes, not the best clothing choice.


well, i would have picked the fight if i wore such a shirt in the first place. but generally i am too lazy to get into a situation like this at all. when i speak german at a u.s. airport i am very careful about what i say, making sure i only use words that would not be understood in english.

I'm about as Republican and Conservative as a guy can get and this just pisses me off. I hope he pursues it. And I hope he nails the bastards right in the wallet.

So...because I don't speak spanish, should I be able to have every Hispanic in my town not be able to wear anything that does not read in English to the local airport?

Fucking bullshit.

Sometimes this country is so asinine, i think the best thing i could do to keep from losing my mind is to immigrate.

I've lost a bit of respect for Jet Blue I think.

Jet Blue was the first company to VOLUNTARILY turn over their passenger data to DHS.

that just makes me sick!

a few of us from my lj agree that he should write the nytimes and share his story with them.

has he contact the ACLU regarding this, do you know?

He did contact the ACLU and they are suing, based upon what he said on Democracy Now.

holy shit dude.

listen, i totally admire how you stood up for yourself and what was right, despite overwhelming pressure and intimidation. that took a lot of courage---one of a million things missing right now in our civilized society.


I thought that Raed and Salam Pax were one and the same somehow. Are you certain that they are cousins? They are both architects, I know that.

Re: Where is Raed?

z111

2006-08-23 03:07 am (UTC)

I just saw a documentary on LINK tv that identified them as the same person, so I'm confused too.

two things:
1) time for a JetBlue boycott, people!!!!!!!!!
2) this reminds me of the man and his son in upstate ny who were arrested for wearing tshirts that said 'give peace a chance' inside the shopping mall where they purchased the shirts. funny how, in times of war, people are threatened by messages of peace.

That is horrifying. I hope he does pursue legal action. I'd recommend the ACLU who may take the case on for free.

I have mixed feelings about this

(Anonymous)

2006-08-23 03:49 am (UTC)

First off, making someone cover up a Tshirt is just silly. If you feel the guy is a threat, then take him off the plane and process him accordingly. If he's not a threat, then the T-shirt certainly isnt either. I don't have a problem with TSA and Jet-Blue throughly checking out this guy as they did. Thats just common sense..A muslim with unknown islamic script on his shirt, along with an English quotation that could be viewed as a threat. Taken in full context, this guy was absolutely worth additional scrutiny....Certainly makes more sense than making little old ladies throw away their Water bottles and lipstick. However..once the guy as cleared as not a threat, then let him go on his way and leave him alone! But its not that clear....the fact that they made him take a seat further away from the front of airplane (near the pilots) is evidence that they are still suspicious of him. The airline/Tsa started out in the right...checking out a suspicious character. i.e, looking for terrorist, rather than terrorist tools. However the fact that they then sent him on his way, while still harboring doubt(seat change) is VERY concerning. Not to mention the T-shirt coverup thing (what next? Binary T-Shirts?) I think the underlying problem is that the airlines and TSA is WAY to afraid of being deemed politically incorrect to do anything worthwhile.

Re: I have mixed feelings about this

yes_justice

2006-08-23 09:30 pm (UTC)

The airline/Tsa started out in the right...checking out a suspicious character. i.e, looking for terrorist, rather than terrorist tools. However the fact that they then sent him on his way, while still harboring doubt(seat change) is VERY concerning.

They had nothing on him and no reason to hold him. Perhaps they are not scared of their own shadow as much as others are apparently.

That's so many shades of fucked up. People's prejudice, unfounded fears and idiocy never fails to surprise me, though I shouldn't be surprised.

I want the shirt.

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