So, I decided to write to JetBlue and let them know what I thought of their behavior and left this comment on their website:
“I think it is disgusting that you make people take off (or cover up) a tee shirt because it has Arabic writing on it! How UN-AMERICAN to not support freedom of expression! Shame on you!”
A customer service representative answered with this email:
“Thank you for giving us an opportunity to address the situation reported on DemocracyNow.org and other sites. We are working with the TSA to fully understand the situation, and we have not concluded our fact-finding yet.
Our fundamental responsibility as an airline is to provide safe and secure travel for all of our customers. This requires us to be sensitive to the concerns of all of our customers, while also upholding the rights of the individual. We value diversity, among our customers as well as our crewmembers. We take our responsibility seriously, and should there be an opportunity to improve our effectiveness, we will take the appropriate action.”
I answered them again with this email:
“I am a friend of the mother of this young man who JetBlue (or TSA) made cover up his tee shirt. His mother is a wonderful person who is Iraqi, and her son is also Iraqi. What a shame to send the message that America is NOT about freedom of expression to the same people who fled Iraq because of the American invasion there actually placed them in danger (his mother is living in Jordan now). I am just sickened at where this country seems to be headed. I have always been sickened by the racism in this country, which is what is ACTUALLY behind this event. You are not providing for safe and secure travel when you suppress freedom of expression and do it because of racism. A tee shirt can hurt no one, and if I get the chance, I will purchase the same tee shirt. What I won't do is fly on a plane while the TSA and airlines are acting like such jerks.”
The customer service representative thanked me for sharing my concerns and interest in this matter and said they will issue an update when that is available. At least they are making an effort to understand what they did, or maybe they just want it to look that way. This story was on CNN and Yahoo News (Associated Press story). Raed was also on Democracy Now telling his story, and I hear he is driving cross-country to DC to go to Camp Democracy. And, since I will be at Camp Democracy next week, I probably will have the chance to meet Raed. And maybe buy a tee shirt that says I won’t be silenced.