How are we going to defend ourselves against terrorism if we’re not allowed to discriminate against different-looking people with weird writing on their shirts?
An air passenger forced to cover his T-shirt because it displayed Arabic script has been awarded a payout of $240,000 (£163,000), his lawyers say.
Two Transportation Security Authority officials and JetBlue Airways will be forced to make the payout.
Raed Jarrar, a US resident, had accused them of illegally discriminating against him based on his ethnicity and the Arabic writing on his T-shirt.
The payout is the largest of its kind since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Okay, I have to admit that this is not the least threatening t-shirt I have ever seen in an airport. Vaguely militant slogan plus Arabic script. I would probably think twice about wearing that for a flight.
And yet, isn’t that the lesson of this whole thing? These officials are in the business of creating a security state. It’s hard to monitor everyone all the time, so it’s useful to them if they can get individuals to do a lot of self-monitoring — to make lots of little decisions not to wear this, or not to say that, to censor themselves in a hundred ways just so they won’t fall afoul of some arbitrary and unwritten code of conduct.
And so Raed’s question that day was very appropriate:
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?”
No, there is not. The good guys won this time.