06 January, 2009

Where do I sign up for one of these?

A settlement was reached between an airline passenger and Jet Blue airlines and agents of the NTSB. The settlement results in a payment of nearly a quarter million dollars.

How was this man wronged? He was asked to change his t-shirt at the airport. Call the ACLU! Well, someone did.

It turns out that Raed Jarrar was wearing a t-shirt that had, written in Arabic, "We will not be silent". When other customers voiced concern, he was asked by officials to change his shirt, and even provided a shirt to wear over his potentially offensive shirt.

I think that there are wrongs on many levels in this matter.

First of all, what have we learned about Islamic Extremist terrorists? They are trying to blend in. Many of them break the rules of Islam to blend in by shaving, cutting hair, even eating pork and drinking alcohol. Do you really think that if he was going to blow up the plane, that he would draw attention to himself before he gets on the plane? I doubt it.

The ACLU argues that it would be the same as someone "wearing a t-shirt at a bank stating, I am a robber". I beg to differ. Something written in Arabic at an airport is less of a threat than a robbery note written on a t-shirt at a bank.

Was it the best wardrobe decision that Jarrar could have made that day? Probably not. Maybe he was tired of the stereotyping that has been going on since 9/11. Is it fair that all Muslims and all Arabs are guilty until proven innocent in the court of public opinion at airports? Absolutely not. But given the current social climate, some people need to understand how things are. That's not to say that they should hide behind their heritage or beliefs, but they should choose their battles. While in the Lima, Peru airport in November, I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that could have been considered more offensive than the one that Jerrar wore, it stated "100% Terrorist" and had a picture of an AK-47.

On the other hand, is a $240,000 payout justified? No. He wasn't refused the flight, he was given a t-shirt to cover the one he was wearing. I think that if anything, it could have been settled with a comped flight. But getting what equates to 5 years salary for many Americans for being asked to change his shirt? That is going too far. I think that the family that was denied service on an Airtran flight has more of a beef than Jarrer.

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